Developed By: Germany, Netherlands
Manufactured By: Germany, Sweden, Spain, Greece
Used By: Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland
The Leopard 2 has been developed as replacement for the M48 tanks used by the German Army. It was supposed to be used alongside the Leopard 1, one of the most agile western tanks of its time. The Leopard 2 should even exceed its mobility, but also add higher protection and firepower. Looking back, all of these goals were achieved.
No other modern MBT has such a good reputation in the western world as the Leopard 2, entitled or not. Developed during the 1970s, the tank is still being used in many armies around the globe. With the reduced size of western armies, many Leopard 2 have been made available on the market. The most common version used today is still the Leopard 2A4, which was introduced in 1985.
Though modern technology has been tested and partially be made available, the Leopard 2 has to be seen as an aging battle horse. Nearly 3.300 units were produced, but manufacturing lines are closed now. The latest developments are nearly all aiming for additional armour and ammunition. What is lacking is a holistic view on what would be the usage of the Leopard 2 in the next 20 years, which technology would be available and which would be needed. And maybe it is time for a new design of turret or hull, maybe even both.
Below you find an “as complete as possible” list of the different versions of the Leopard 2 and their technical differences.
First Appearance: 1965
During the 1960s, Germany and the United States were quite busy developing a new modern battle tank, the MBT70. Unfortunately, the project showed, that the given expectations and requirements regarding technology and bilateral cooperation could not be met. This brought Germany and the USA into the situation, that no modern vehicle would be available to oppose the modern Soviet tanks. This was at times not acceptable. As the signed contracts did not allow both countries a parallel development a new tank, Germany selected Porsche for a study on the possibilities of future combat enhancements for the Leopard 1. Goal of the study was the collection and theoretical evaluation regarding the practical usage and feasibility. The final report delivered by Porsche covered all parts of the modern battle tank. This includes the following points. Fire Control System: Usage of an integrated fire control system with stabilization and sights for commander and gunner, including night vision. In addition, a camera mounted on a telescopic arm and carried at the turret rear, could be erected to achieve superior 360deg vision. Armament: Usage of an autocannon, mounted parallel to the main gun and used as secondary armament, as well as a remotely operated machine gun in the AA role. It was also suggested to modify the hull rear to limit the no-fire-zone. It addition an automatic loader for the main gun including storage of ammunition in hull and turret as also considered. Propulsion: Usage of a 1.100HP engine and a new transmission. It would allow moving the cooling system to the hull rear and using suction fans instead of the blower type ones. Suspension System: Improvements were planed regarding spring travel and ground clearance. In addition the drive sprocket was moved rearwards and overlapping the hull rear. This would increase the available space for the propulsion system in the hull. Protection: Main subjects were optimization of turret front, redesign of turret rear and usage of new steel alloys. The possibilities developed during the Gilded Leopard project got evaluated regarding feasibility and some even materialized as part of the follow-up projects.
First Appearance: 1968
With the looming end of the MBT70 project on the horizon, German ministry of Defence had to take a decision how to proceed. Future development and procurement plans had to be reworked and adjusted. Contractual regulations with the USA, as well as lack of R&D funding hindered a rapid change of plans. Only after hard internal discussions and negotiations a small budget was raised and a contract for the experimental development was given to Krauss-Maffei in Munich as prime contractor. The designation “experimental development” was chosen to preserve contract conformity with the MBT70 project at least on paper and to distance officially of a parallel development.
Main focus of the Keiler was the practical evaluation of new technologies designed during the previous Gilded Leopard, with the final goal to use these technologies in a later version of the Leopard 1 or even for a possible future MBT. Two test vehicles were produced in 1969 and handed over for trials in 1970.
The experimental development was designed for technology evaluation and not meant to be fielded with the Bundeswehr. In order to evaluate as many systems as possible in a single vehicle made it impossible to evaluate the overall system performance of the tank. Still, a larger part of the equipment was working good enough to continue the development or even field some directly with parallel Leopard upgrades. Focus has been on turret and the FCS, which eventually resulted in the Leopard 1A4. And the Keiler was even used as a base for the first prototypes of the Leopard 2.
Both vehicles were based on the Leopard 1 and show characteristics which were fielded years later with the Leopard 1A4. Compared to the Leopard 1, the hull of the Keiler was extended and the rear flattened.
hier fehlt noch was
The distinctive hull with flat front and sloped sides shows the kin to the Leopard 1. The upper sides on the hull front are less armored, which results in a narrow design. The Keiler can also be recognized by its two head lights, which are mounted in one large unit together with the horn on the left glacis.
The driver’s position is in the right side of the hull front. The driver’s hatch of the Leopard1, which was opening to the left, was replaced by a new design opening to the left. As with the Leopard, three small periscopes are placed in front of the driver in the hull.
The weapon turret follows already a very similar design as the later Leopard 1A4. The even sides are sloped to the roof. Central element of the turret front is the 105mm smoothbore gun, which is mounted in a new mantlet, which was sloped to the front. The sides of the mantlet contain the windows for the optical range finder. The turret roof contains the hatches for commander/gunner and loader. The commanders PERI-R12 can be found on the turret roof in front of the commander’s hatch. Behind the loaders hatch is a mount for an AA-MG. The turret rear contains an erectable shooting headlight and storage boxes for the personal equipment of the crew. The left turret side also contains a small hatch, used to load ammunition into the tank.
The propulsion system consists of a combination of MB 872 Ka-500 engine and ZF 4 HP 400 transmission, both derived from the aggregates used with the Leopard 1. The 10-cyclinder multi-fuel engine has a maximum power of 1.250HP, which was more than sufficient for a 40t class vehicle. A further improvement up to 1.500HP would have been possible as well. The two small exhaust grilles are, Leopard 1 like, mounted at the rear hull sides.
The 4 HP 400 transmission was developed by ZF for the usage with the new engine and optimized for small dimensions. This was achieved by deesigning a fully integrated braking system inclusive parking brake. But also by using a new cooling system in the hull rear, which was one of the features envisioned during the Gilded Leopard project. Cooling air is sucked in thru filters in the hull top, guided thru the coolers and blown out at the hull rear. This system is called suction cooling and its main principle is the mounting of the cooling fan behind the radiators. As a result the air is not compressed before the radiator, which results in a higher efficiency of the whole system. The combination of compact power pack, new cooling and stretched hull allowed the design of a relatively low hull and thus reduce the no fire zone.
Another improvement was the usage of a 20kW G30E20-51G DC generator, powered by an OM 636 diesel engine. The usage of the APU was justified by a requirement for an improved combat duration. The fire control system and the new electro-hydraulic turret drive resulted in a constant need of electric energy. The experience with the American M47/48 tanks might also have had its share in the decision for an APU. These tanks were pure fuel guzzlers and the designers of the Keiler might not have had too much trust in the German design yet.
One of the most important improvements of the Keiler was the usage of an integrated fire control system with an analog computer. The gunner received an EMES-12 sight with optical range finder. It was the same used with the Leopard 1. With its base length of 172cm it significantly influenced the form of the turret, especially on the front. In addition, the Keiler was equipped with a laser range finder, but it still had to earn its reputation.
The main gun was driven electro-hydraulically and stabilized in two planes. The gunner’s sight followed the movement of the main gun.
The commander was equipped with a new PERI-R12, which was stabilized in the vertical plane. When taking control over the turret, the main gun followed the line of sight of the commander’s periscope.
Main armament of the experimental development was a new developed 105 smoothbore gun. To support higher chamber pressure and limit vibrations, a comparatively thick gun was used. The gun has no bore evacuator, but a thick mantling on the rear part. This design resulted in a high mass of the gun, which had a negative impact on the vehicles center of gravity and the performance of the turret drive. Because of these characteristics, the gun was not selected as future armament for any other battle tank and a more powerful 120mm model was developed instead.
The secondary armament of the Keiler consists of two MG3. One is mounted parallel to the main gun. The second one is mounted on the turret roof and used by the commander.
The crew of the Keiler consists of the usual configuration of driver, commander, gunner and loader. All crew members are placed in positions analogue to the Leopard 1. The tank was following a conventional layout and moved away from the new design developed with the MBT 70.
The Keiler had a very high level of passive protection for a vehicle of its class. Hull and turret were made of hardened steel and the turret also contained new spaced armour. The new turret design was very advanced and got further enhanced for the usage with the new Leopard 1A4.
Another piece of equipment which directly influenced the passive protection was a new smoke grenade system, which could be activated from within the tank. Four launchers were mounted on each turret side. Another one was mounted on the turret roof between the two hatches. It could be directed from within the vehicle and fired independently. The usage of this feature was quite limited and it got not developed any further.
Communication systems have not been a focus of the Keiler development, which is why normal Leopard 1 equipment was used. The tank was equipped with a crew interlink, which also had an external interface. On top came two radios with long antennas at the turret rear.
First Appearance: 1969
Eber was another design study for a new MBT started in 1969. Goal of the project was the evaluation of the reuse of technologies developed in the MBT 70 project for a future MBT. The Eber was directly based on an MBT 70 vehicle, but with modifications to hull and turret. The driver was moved back to the hull of the vehicle. As the MBT 70 was using a relative flat hull, this move required significant redesign effort. Same can be said about the turret, which needed to be redesigned and simplified. The Eber therefore only stayed a concept and only materialized as wooden model. Ongoing discussions between Germany and the USA revealed that none of the two countries was interested in another MBT 70 version and so the project was stopped.
First Appearance: 1970
Even during the development of the MBT 70, Germany always favoured the usage of a high speed powder gun. Still, in the early stages of the Leopard 2 program, a small team was tasked to look into the usage of the 152mm weapon system of the MBT 70, which was using the Shillelagh missile. The project was designated Leopard 2FK (Flugkörper - Missile). Focus of the investigations was the integration of the large weapon system into a turret of the Leopard 2 with two or three crew members. This includes also the development of a new automatic loader. Because of the size of the weapon, it became quite obvious that only 16 rounds could be placed inside an automatic loader. Additional ammunition could be stored in the turret. The project highlighted some very important downsides of the 152mm weapon. Because of its large caliber, the gun was quite inflexible and only a small amount of rounds could be carried. Therefore the work on the Leopard 2FK was terminated quite fast, only theoretical material was produced.
First Appearance: 1973
Just after the experimental development Keiler got finished, the joint German-American development project for the MBT 70 got shut down. Germany then decided to continue the work started with the Keiler under the new project designation Leopard 2K (Kanone - canon). Krauss-Maffei in Munich was assigned the task of the prime contractor for the development of a new MBT in 1969 and a total of 7 prototypes were ordered. Five vehicles were ordered using 105mm guns and 2 with new developed 120mm ones. In 1970 an additional contract for 10 pre-series vehicles was signed. As all vehicles differed and various new technologies were tested, all 17 tanks got finally designated “prototypes” and no troop trial vehicles were produced. A longer catalog contained requirements for the new vehicle and the usage of certain components. For logistical reasons, the tank should fall into MLC50 with a combat weight of max 45t. The MB 873 Ka-500 engine, developed as part of the MBT 70 project, was supposed to be used. Also the Renk developed HSWL 345 was to be used. This decision was motivated mainly by certain intent to reuse at least some of the MBT 70 technologies. Germany had gathered some experience with the power pack and both components worked well together. The downside was the huge dimension, which meant a massive redesign of the Keiler hull rear.
The requirements for the turret were quite similar to what was already available with the Keiler. They covered a fire control system, the EMSES-12 gunner’s sight, the PERI-R12 commander’s sight, an electro-hydraulic turret drive with primarily stabilized gun and an analogue fire control computer.
Looking at these requirements, it was not surprising that the first official Leopard 2 prototypes were quite similar to the Keiler vehicles. Main difference was basically the hull rear, which contained the large Leopard 2 engine. The hull rear was higher and grill at the rear was flattened but wider. The hull front was also slightly modified; it received a less sloped glacis. The frontal armor plate covered now a wide area on the hull front.
The 17 prototypes of the Leopard 2 were delivered for testing between 1972 and 1974. Hulls and turrets were delivered independently and not necessarily tested together as one vehicle. At the end, only 16 hulls were produced, number 12 never materialized. On the other hand all 17 turrets were handed over for troop trials. When combining turrets and hulls, a wide range of different configurations was tested. This was possible as turrets and hulls were fully compatible with each other. Tanks had a certain configuration at the beginning and later heavily mixed.
The hulls were more or less equal, they only differed in the usage of armour materials, tracks and road wheels, as well as APUs. Only hulls 11 and 17 have to be mentioned separately, as they received a hydraulic suspension system, derived from the one used with the MBT 70. It allowed raising or lowering the front or the complete hull. Unfortunately the technology was very new and many technical issues arose and had to be overcome. Finally the decision was made to use the older but accurate torsion bar system instead, which also made it into the series production.
In 1973, a contract was signed between Germany and the USA to ensure at least high level system compatibility within the now started indigenous development projects. As part of the contract, Germany also delivered prototype hull 7 to the USA. When comparing the hull with the ones used in the later XM1 prototypes, the influence of German engineering on the American tanks is quite visible. Of course this will never be officially confirmed by the American side.
More drastic development improvements than with the hulls can be seen when looking at the Leopard 2 prototype turrets. Originally they were quite similar to the one used at the Leopard 1A4. The commander was equipped with a PERI-R12 and the gunner with an EMES 12 including optical range finder. Until turret 10 the FERO Z12A1 was used as auxiliary sight for the gunner, later on the simpler TZF 1A came into picture. Two different passive night sights were developed by AEG and Elektro-Zeis, which were tested in two turrets each. The night sights were mounted together with a headlight in the turret rear and were moved out when needed. All prototypes of the Leopard 2 were equipped with a modern fire control system, but in the end not fully thought thru. Various sensors like the ones for air pressure, cross wind or powder temperature, where constantly delivering detailed values which were taken into account for the calculation of the aiming point. This rather complicated system ensured that older standard values would influence the main guns accuracy. The stereoscopic image of the gunner’s sight ensured fast and accurate detection and engagement of targets. The binocular eyepiece prevented that the gunner would tire fast. All these ideas and new technologies could boost the Leopard 2 to a new level of firepower and usability. But then the designers adhered to the old type of optical range finder. It proved its capabilities and was very accurate. But at the end, ranging could only be done when the tank was not moving. Fighting on the move against a modern army would not be possible. Another downside was the stabilization system used. The Leopard 2 prototypes had a stabilized main gun with a mechanically linked gunner’s sight. This meant that the system had to stabilize the high mass of the main gun, which did not do a favor to the overall accuracy. As the delivered values were still better than comparable systems, nobody questioned the design.
The first ten turret prototypes were equipped with a 105mm smoothbore gun without bore evacuator. The later seven turrets finally received the 120mm smoothbore gun. The new weapon proved its capabilities from the beginning and was superior to its opponents. The secondary armament of the prototypes consisted of a single 7,62mm Coax-MG, an AA-MG was never present. Another interesting detail is the usage of a small grenade launcher in the turret roof. The design was similar to the one used with the Keiler. A single launcher was mounted behind the loader’s hatch on a rotating base plate which could be directed from within the turret. It allowed the crew to fire different types of ammunition, from smoke to HE. The development was stopped later on and was not fielded.
Turret 11 was also equipped with a 20mm auto canon on the turret roof. The weapon was very accurate, but the size and the ammunition storage were problematic. The development was not continued.
A special notice has to be given to modifications done on turret 14. The tank was the first one inspired by the often quoted experience gathered during the wars in the Near East. To increase the protection for the crew, the turret was redesigned and received new spaced armour, which offered a much higher protection level against HEAT rounds. In addition a fully electrical powered turret drive was installed, replacing the hydraulic system.
In addition, the tank received a new EMES 13 which included a correlation range finder. This new developed engineering master piece allowed very accurate ranging even while driving. Because of the high costs, the laser range finder was preferred later on and the correlation range finder was to be buried in oblivion.
Trials with the new vehicles were conducted between 1972 and 1975 under various geographic and climatic conditions in Germany, Canada and the USA. During 10.000 hours, 12.000km were driven and 11.000 rounds fired. But only the comparison with the XM1 and the new requirements given by the US Army helped finally to develop the tank to perfection.
First Appearance: 1976
In 1973 Germany and the USA started with evaluations for system compatibility for the future Leopard 2 and M1. Already one year later the USA accepted a direct comparison of the German tank with the XM1 prototypes. One of the main goals was the evaluation of a potential usage of the Leopard 2 within the armed forces of the USA. To achieve this, various differing requirements had to be taken into account and the Leopard 2 had to be adjusted accordingly. Finally it was decided to produce and modify tanks based on the current plans and not develop a completely new vehicle. Main requirements for the vehicle were an improved protection for the crew, the usage of a laser range finder and a different stabilization.
A total of two hulls and three turrets were produced and tested in Germany and the USA. Finally the vehicles were also used to prepare the Leopard 2 series production and test final modifications. As the project produced a simplified or austere version of the Leopard 2, it got designated Leopard 2AV.
Hulls 19 and 20, as well turret 20 were delivered to the USA for trials. Hull and turret 19 were delivered as one vehicle; hull 20 received a turret counter weight to allow mechanical and dynamical tests under realistic conditions. A second tank was also delivered for shooting and penetration tests.
In the aftermath, have the additional requirements set by the USA Army, the access to American technology and the development of the Leopard 2AV been a godsend for Germany, as they gave the finishing touches to the new tank. Without this project, the Leopard 2 would have been less armoured, had a less powerful FCS and only an optical range finder. Therefore we have to thank the USA for the tank trial. And at the same time we have to feel sorry as they finally selected the XM1 as future main battle tank… ?
After the AV got tested, Germany directly started to prepare serial production and necessary manufacturing plants. How close the Leopard 2AV was to the early serial versions of the Leopard 2 can be easily spotted by comparing images of the two tanks.
Although various improvements were made to the Leopard 2 before the first tank finally rolled off the production lines. But these covered only details and should be called optimization, rather than evolution.
The Leopard 2AV follows the design of the previous Leopard 2 prototypes. The new requirements for enhanced protection resulted in a modified design for hull and turret. The hull is already nearly identically to the later serial production. Not like the other prototypes, the glacis is sloped more between the two tracks. The hull sides are upright, which allows a better integration of armour and fuel cells.
The turret is placed on the hull center, which results in an optimal center of gravity. The design is derived from prototype 14. Because of the usage of spaced armour, the turret has a specific form. The front is sloped to the sides and the turret sides are upright.
The proven duo made up of MB873 Ka-500 and HSWL354 was used. It was not planned to compromise here, but to give a clear signal to the American partner.
The Leopard 2AV is equipped with the analogue computer core of the Leopard 1A4. As the US Army required a simplified system, nearly all sensors for external parameters got removed, except for powder temperature and cross wind. Turrets 19 and 21 were equipped with a new Hughes developed EMES 15. It contained a head mirror with two axis stabilization, a day channel and a laser range finder. This design opened quite some new possibilities, but also restrictions. The new sight had only one objective, which was not able to produce stereoscopic images, thus resulting in slower recognition times. To make work easier for the gunner, the sight was still using a binocular eyepiece. As the laser range finder was using the stabilized head mirror of the sight, ranging was now possible even while driving. This head mirror hence was the most important improvement for the FCS. As it had a relatively low mass, stabilization was less complex as it would be when stabilizing the main gun. Still the stabilizing results were much higher, resulting in a higher accuracy. To use the full potential of the sight, it became the master for the stabilization of the main gun. Sight and gun are not linked anymore mechanically. The head mirror of the gunner’s sight is stabilized and the resulting positioning data is feed into the fire control system. Here, additional parameters like lead and cant were taken into account and the aiming point for the main gun got calculated. This value was given to the weapon control system, which then directed the main gun.
The FCS of the Leopard 2AV also came with a permanently activated dynamic lead, a parameter favored by the US military. Turret 20, which was only tested in Germany, was equipped with a German developed EMES 13A1 including laser range finder. It was less powerful than the EMES 15 and thus didn’t make it into the final configuration of the Leopard 2.
All AV turrets received the PERI-R12A1 as commander’s sight. It contained a day channel and was independently stabilized. This enables true hunter-killer capabilities.
Turret 19 was equipped with a rifled 105mm L7A3 gun. It was known from the Leopard 1 and a strict requirement of the US Army. The tank was equipped with that gun throughout the full test. Later on it got reequipped with the new 120mm gun and reevaluated together will hull 7. These new tests showed the superiority of the new weapon quite clearly. Leopard 2AV prototype turret 20 was also equipped with the 105mm gun, but only evaluated in Germany. Turret 21, which was the final prototype turret of the Leopard 2, got delivered directly with the 120mm smoothbore gun. It can also be seen as the one and only pre-series vehicle of the Leopard 2.
The secondary armaments of the AV were three MG3A1. One was mounted as coax-MG parallel to the main gun. A second one was placed in the AA role in a mount at the loaders hatch. And to provide the American tank commanders with their obligatory toy, the third MG was mounted at the commander’s hatch.
The crew of the Leopard 2AV consists of four men, commander, gunner, loader and driver. The crew’s stations are identically to other Leopard 2 versions. Changes were made at the gunner’s station for the integration of the new sight and for the loader by removing the loading help.
To meet the new requirements regarding protection, hull and turret of the Leopard 2AV got reevaluated and redesigned in some specific features. Hull armour was optimized against mind blasts and frontal HE resistance. The turret was optimized on the front for protection against HEAT and KE. This was achieved by optimizing form and spaced armour. The turret of the AV equals to the turret number 14 of the earlier Leopard 2 prototypes, but has a much thicker frontal armour. Another new feature was the usage of a closed ammunition bunker with blow our panels. It is placed in the left turret rear can be accessed only by the loader. All other rounds are stored in the hull front left of the driver.
The Leopard 2AV was using a standard intercom system for the crew. Each member had a headset and a throat microphone. In addition there were two radio sets.
The Leopard 2AV was evaluated against the two XM1 prototypes. Here, the German design proved to be much more advanced. Because of the long development and the high amount of tested prototypes, the Leopard 2AV was much more mature, has superior ergonomics and mobility and far greater penetration power when using the 120mm smoothbore gun. None of the XM prototypes had hunter-killer-capabilities. The American tanks had a better frontal protection and the 105mm gun was more accurate when used and short range.
First Appearance: 1977
One part of the cooperation contract between Germany and the USA for the standardization of parts of the future MBT covered propulsion systems. To please the American partner, Germany agreed to equip and test one Leopard 2 with the propulsion system of the M1 Abrams. In 1977, a prototype was equipped with the propulsion of the XM1, containing the AGT1500 gas turbine and the X1100 transmission. The works required a complete redesign of the hull rear. The turbine, and especially the exhaust duct were higher than the normal transmission/cooler combination. Also the rear of the hull had to be opened in order to exit the exhaust gasses. Finally the air cleaners were reworked but never performed as expected. The evaluation of the tank highlighted the weaknesses of the powerpack and made it clear, that it was not acceptable for the usage in the Leopard 2. The AGT1500 gas turbine developed a very nice torque curve, but the consumption was way above values seen with the German diesel engines. It was not planned to have an APU installed in the Leopard 2. But at the same time, one if the important scenarios for the usage of the Leopard 2 was out of defensive positions. There the engine would run while tank is static. While a diesel engine would burn a lot of fuel propelling the electric power generator, the gas turbine would most likely double or triple that. The X1100-3B transmission used together with the gas turbine was also not up to the mark. It showed bad load performance and weak brakes. German regulations are very strict for the usage of vehicles on roads and powerful brakes are needed. It is not clear if somebody on US side would ever seriously hoped for Germany to switch to the gas turbine propulsion for the Leopard 2. The test results were predictable and the output not surprising. The evaluation was finished very quickly and the gas turbine was banned from the use in the Leopard 2.
First Appearance: 1979
The production of the Leopard 2 started in 1979 and the first tank was handed over to the Bundeswehr on 25.10.1980. The first batch of the tank covered 380 vehicles, which later received the unofficial designation A0. Production was shared between Kraus-Maffei in Munich and MaK in Kiel.
The fielding of the Leopard 2 was a true milestone for the German tank forces. The developers at Krauss-Maffei had truly delivered a masterpiece, a worthy successor of the Leopard 1. Of course there were some smaller technical issues during the first time of service usage, but that was to be expected with a weapon system of the same complexity. In close cooperation of Bundeswehr and vendors, solutions for the issues were developed. Quickly, the Leopard 2 was known as the powerful and frugal work horse of the German armed forces. And the success in the annual trainings and evaluations with the allies also spoke volumes. The Leopard 2 raised the bar for main battle tanks within the NATO quite a bit. It went to values, which other developments, if at all, were just able to match with years later.
The Leopard 2 follows a clear and classic design, which slightly reminds on the Pz.Kpfw. VI Tiger. Focus of the development was to create Main Battle Tank, which would stand out for its combination of high mobility and overwhelming armament. Armament had a much higher importance as it was when developing the Leopard 1. But, especially based on the experiences gathered in Israel, it was clear that an overall protection was not possible, so the goal was optimization.
The tank is equipped with a relatively compact hull with sloped front. The hull top is flat, but sloped towards the rear. Hull sides are vertically, light and heavy side skirts are mounted as protection of the suspension.
The hull front contains the driver’s station on the right side and a rack for storage of main gun ammunition in the left. The driver’s station can be accessed from within the vehicle or thru a hatch in the hull front.
The frontal hull sides contain large fuel cells. The central part of the hull is occupied by the turret ring, which is the base for the vehicle’s turret. The turret is plugged into the turret ring and only connected to the hull at the slip ring. It is placed in the hull bottom and used for transmission of electric energy and control signals.
The rear part of the hull contains the power pack, which consists of engine, transmission, coolers and air filters. The top of the hull rear can be lifted or even removed to allow access to the power pack. In addition, the hull top also contains maintenance hatches. The rear hull sides contain batteries, as well as storage boxes for parts of the vehicle tool kid.
The Leopard 2 is using a very angular turret with an upright front, which is sloped to the sides. Main elements are the 120mm canon and the crew’s compartment for commander, gunner and loader. The right turret front contains the gunner’s main sight, which is protected by two armoured doors, opening to the sides. The upper turret is slightly sloped from the front to the middle with a flat rear. Two hatches for commander and gunner are placed in the middle of the turret top. The commander’s hatch is mounted on the right. It is operated by using a mechanical lifting/swinging unit, which can be used only from inside the vehicle. A total of six periscopes are placed around commander’s hatch, giving the commander a nearly 360deg view around the vehicle.
The loader’s hatch is placed on the left side of the turret top. It opens to the rear and is mounted on a spring supported hinge. The hatch can be locked in the open position flat on the turret roof. The loaders hatch is the only hatch for the crew which can be opened from in- and outside the vehicle. To open, close and lock the hatch, a lever is mounted on the outside and a hand wheel on the inner side. Both activate a closing mechanism, which basically consists of simple bolts. The hatch does not contain any optical devices for battlefield observation. Instead, a ring mount for an AA-MG is placed around the hatch. The ring mount is also giving some protection to the loader when he is standing in the hatch. In front of the loader's hatch, slightly move to the left turret side, is a small periscope for the loader. It is directed to the front and offers a limited field of view of 40deg. Another periscope is available for the gunner. It is mounted in the turret roof in front of the commander’s hatch with the ocular right on top of the gunner’s seat. It is directed towards the turret front and fixed. It is much smaller than the other standard periscopes and can’t be removed.
The turret sides are fully vertical and not sloped. The rear part of each turret side carries 8 smoke grenade launchers. A special feature of the Leopard 2 is a small ammunition hatch on the left turret side. It is used to load ammunition to the loader. It is mainly used when the tank is operated in contaminated area.
The left turret rear contains a closed ammunition storage for main gun rounds. The centre right turret rear contains the electronic room. It is only accessible from the turret rear and contains the control electronic for the fire control system. The right side of the turret rear contains the electrically operated turret hydraulic.
The turret rear ends with an open and one closed storage box for the personal equipment of the crew, and a small box containing the cleaning tools for the main gun.
The Leopard 2 is using a combination of MB873 Ka-501 engine and HSWL354 transmission. Together with the air filters, the cooling system and parts of the fuel system, engine and transmission form a compact power pack. This setup allows easy replacement, even under battle conditions. It limits failures due to repair issues.
Compared to the MB873 Ka-500, which was used for the Leopard 2 prototypes, the new Ka-501 has a much larger displacement. It results in a much higher torque over the complete range of speed. At the same time, the engine got rid of the multi-fuel capability. It burns only diesel fuel or its substitutes. For usage in cold weather, the fuel can be blended with kerosene. The MB 873 Ka-501engine is equipped with a turbo charger and an intercooler. The maximum power is given with 1.500HP, the torque with 4.700Nm. To prevent damages and ensure a highest possible efficiency, the power pack is equipped with an electronic control system. It is also used to switch off the engine in extreme situations like extreme slope of the vehicle or lack of cooling liquid.
The engine of the Leopard 2 shows a well balanced performance, fast throttle response and a low sustenance to failure. When it entered service, it was truly the most advanced tank engine of its time.
A hydraulic and bridgeable torque converter connects the engine to the HSWL power shifting/steering/braking transmission. It is used to modulate the torque flow from engine to tracks depending on the driver’s needs. A total of four gears can be shifted manually or in automatic mode. The build in braking system consists of a retarder and two oil cooled disk brakes. An additional brake is available outside the transmission in the hull rear. The parking brake is mounted on the inner side of the final drives and used to block the tank when it is on a hold. The parking brake is activated by the driver. When activated, the system is not pressurised, which means the brake cannot be release by accident or system failure. To release the brake, oil from the hull hydraulic system is used. In case the oil pressure falls under a certain limit, the brake can’t be kept open and it closes. The parking brake has its own circuit and is not linked to the service brakes.
The Leopard 2 is using a liquid based cooling system to conduct thermal energy away from engine and transmission oil cooling circuits. Two large ring coolers are mounted on top of the transmission housing and mechanically powered. Air is sucked in from the top and pushed thru the coolers. This design is quite simple, but it also comes with a low efficiency and needs quite a lot of space. The control system of the engine can switch between two speed levels for the cooling fans, depending on the temperature of the cooling liquid and the engine speed. The exhaust air escapes thru a large grill at the hull rear. It exits downwards and is used to cool the exhaust gases from the engine, thus reducing the IR signature of the tank.
The last part of the power pack consists of the air filters. Both are mounted on the sides of the engine and consist of three parts. Air is entering thru two large hoods in the hull top, which also filter out large objects. The next stage is the so called cyclone filters, which clean the air from most particles. The final stage consists of paper based fine filters, which clean the air from smallest dust particles. The cyclone filters are equipped with an automatic cleaning fan, which removes dust. The fine filters have to be cleaned by the crew manually or removed.
The complete power pack is extremely compact. It is connected to the hull only at the final drives, with four screws at the bottom and several cables and pipelines. This allows a very fast replacement of the complete unit, even under combat conditions in max 30 minutes.
Beside the propulsion of the vehicle, the engine is also driving a 20kW power generator. It is mounted below the engine and mechanically powered. This means that electric energy can only be generated when the engine is running. An auxiliary power unit is not available.
The vehicle’s electric system has a voltage between 24 and 28V and a capacity of up to 400Ah. The system is split into two circuits, one with 300Ah and one with 100Ah. The stronger circuit is used to supply the hull and larger parts of the turret systems and the weapon control. The second circuit is used for the more delicate fire control units. If needed, for instance if the engine is started, both circuits can be connected. When the engine is not running, a total of 8 batteries are used for energy supply. They are stored in boxes in the hull rear sides and can be accessed thru maintenance hatches in the hull top. Two batteries are series connected and form four groups, which are again parallel connected. One of the groups is linked to the fine circuit; the other three build the stronger circuit.
The electric system also allows slave starting of the tank, in case the available power in the batteries would be too low. A slave receptacle is available in the storage box on the far rear hull side. Two tanks are connected and the working tank is started. As a second step the slave vehicle can be started.
The fuel system of the Leopard 2 contains a total of five fuel tanks. The frontal upper hull sides contain the forward fuel tanks. The tank in the left side has a capacity of 230l, the right one 350l. The two main fuel tanks are placed in the middle of the hull, right behind the turret ring. The left tank has a capacity of 280l and the right one of 250l. Both tanks also contain the fuel intakes, which can be accessed from the tip of the hull rear. And last but not least there is the rear fuel tank with a capacity of only 50l. The overall capacity of the Leopard 2 is given with 1.160l. Forward and main fuel tank in each hull side are connected and linked to one fuel pump, which is transporting the fuel to the rear tank. A mechanical switch in the hull allows the usage of the fuel from one side of the hull only. In normal operation both sides are emptied in parallel and the remaining fuel is shared equally between the hull sides. From the hull rear tank, the fuel is pumped thru fuel filters into the injection system of the engine.
Fire Control System
Heart of the weapon turret of the leopard 2, and beside the main gun the guarantor for the superior firepower, is the fire control system. It consists of several optics, the fire control computer with supplying sensors and the weapon control system. All parts are connected via the central logic/main distribution unit.
Only task of the fire control system is to calculate an aiming point for the main gun, so it hits the target the gunner or commander are aiming in. Calculations are done in the fire control computer, while the directing of the main gun is done using the weapon control system.
Most important sensor is the EMES 15 gunner’s sight, which has been developed by Hughes and license produced by Krupp Atlas Electronic. It is providing the gunner with a day channel and a laser range finder. Day channel magnification is 12x with a field of view of 5deg. The laser range finder covers a range between 200 and 9999m, but only values up to 4km are used for aiming point calculations.
The optics are built into the front right side of the turret tower and can be recognized by the large outlook head. It has two large hydraulically operated doors on the front, which protect the optics from damages. The left sight of the outlook contains the day channel and the laser range finder, while the right side is empty. Later versions of the Leopard 2 would carry here the thermal night sight. The outlook contains a large head is a mirror, which is stabilized in both planes. It ensures the extremely high quality of stabilization of the gunner’s line of sight under combat conditions. The resulting image is displayed to the gunner thru a binocular eyepiece. At the same time, the image is overlaid by a reticule. The latter one is used by the gunner not only to aim at the target, but also to determine target distance in emergency situations. The lower part of the gunner’s view is filled with a vertical five digits panel. The left digit displays F or 0, indicating the fire readiness status of the main gun. The next three digits show the distance to the lased target, with the units column for obvious reasons not being displayed. The right digit of the panel finally indicates the ammunition type entered by the loader.
As the requested thermal imaging sight was not available at the start of the series production, 200 tanks of the first lot were equipped with the PZB 200 image intensifying sight. It was mounted on top of the gun mantlet. The image was displayed on a small monitor, mounted to the right of the gunner’s position. The PZB 200 was only planed as an interim solution, but it gave the tank at least some sort of night fighting capabilities.
The gunner’s control panel, mounted to the right of the gunner’s eyepiece, is used to configure the sight system.
As an auxiliary sight, the FERO-Z18 is mounted axis parallel to the main gun to the left of the gunner. The sight is monocular, not stabilized and the ranging is done purely using the reticule. Its centre contains the aiming point, with ranging marks for the MZ, KE and MG to its left. They are displaying the range which is entered by the gunner in the FCS.
For the first time in modern tank design, the Leopard 2 was equipped with a full stabilized panoramic sight for the commander, the PERI-R17. It can be traversed independently from the turret and allows the commander to search for targets, direct the tanks armament or hand over targets to the gunner. The sight only offers a day channel. As there is no laser range finder included, ranging can be done only by using the reticule. The PERI is mounted on the right side of the turret roof in front o the commander’s hatch. Because of its relatively small size, it is hardly interfering with the commander’s vision. The PERI is controlled by the commander using a fixed control stick to his right and a rocker switch. The later one is used to select the rotation speed or to start an automatic movement with constant speed. This is not to be mistaken for an automatic target tracking. The control handle itself allows the direction of the PERI using a thumb switch, as well as firing the main weapon and using the gunner’s laser range finder. In addition there are switches to select the needed operational mode.
Besides the optical sensors, which deliver data about the relative position and the distance of the target, as well as values related to the stabilization of the tanks sights, the tank is also equipped with several other sensors. The most obvious one is mounted on the turret rear top and delivers data regarding wind speed and direction. The so called cross wind sensor is mounted on a small pole and used only with the two first versions of the Leopard 2 (and today it was reintroduced with the Leopard 2HEL). The so called vertical sensor is mounted below the main gun. It contains a gyroscope and measures the cant of the vehicle. In the left turret side, close to the turret drive, is the turret position sensor, which delivers the horizontal position of the turret relatively to the hull. Two more position sensors are mounted on each side of the main gun, delivering the vertical position of the gun to EMES and PERI. Below the main gun is another weapon gyroscope placed, which measures vertical and horizontal movements of the main gun. A similar sensor, measuring the movements of the turret, is placed in the electronics compartment in the turret rear. Another sensor on the inner gun mantlet, gives the vertical position of the main gun relatively to the turret. A last sensor is finally placed outside the turret. It is connected to the transmission and delivers data on the tanks speed and direction (forward/reverse).
The electronics compartment contains the fire control computer. It collects the data provided by the different sensors. It also contains data on the ballistic of the different ammunition types. Additional values are delivered from the computer control panel, mounted to the right of the gunner. Manually entered vales are related to cant and the parallax motion compensation, height above sea level, air and ammunition temperature, as well as activation of cross wind sensor and laser range finder. The control panel has a central switch, which allows the selection of different values. The setting is later done using turning knobs, which are mounted on the lower part of the panel. To prevent accidental usage of the knobs, they are normally protected by a plastic cover.
Based on all the different values, the fire control computer is calculating values for elevation correction and lead for the main gun, so the target cantered by the optical sensors is being hit. In addition, the fire control computer is providing several functions, which allow reduction or prevention of a miss when shooting at a target. Such means are automatic cant correction, dynamic lead and parallax motion compensation. Cant correction is influencing the aiming point of the main gun by detecting and correcting a vertical or horizontal cant of the vehicle. Dynamic lead was introduced with the Leopard 2AV, but there it was permanently active. The Leopard 2 introduced a small button at the gunner’s control handle, which needs to be pressed to activate this function. Dynamic lead, sometimes also called lateral lead, is measuring the movement of the target while aiming at it and uses the retrieved data to adjust the main guns aiming point. The gunner is lasing at the target and while pressing the dynamic lead button on the control handle, he is following the movement of the target for at least 2sec. Based on range to target and the movement of the weapon turret while dynamic lead is activated, the fire control computer is calculating the speed and the direction of the target. Dynamic lead should only be used when the target is moving, as it might lead otherwise to miscalculations in the gun’s aiming point. Parallax motion compensation covers a problem quite similar to dynamic lead. But instead of target movement, it covers the movement of the tank itself. Thus, it is measuring and compensating the speed and movement relative to the target.
While the fire control computer is responsible only for the calculation of the aiming point, the fire control system is also handling other tasks. Some are taken over by the central logic/main distribution (ZLHV) unit. First of all, it is responsible for the electric power supply for the turret, including fuses. On the other hand, the system is also activating FCS functionalities based on logical operations. For instance will the main gun only fire, if main gun and sight are aiming on the same target. The ZLHV also provides the different operational modes of the FCS.
Turret and main gun of the Leopard 2 are directed by an electro-hydraulic WNA-H22 drive. It consists of drives for vertical and horizontal movement, the hydraulic power supply (HKV) and the control unit. The hydraulic system is using a closed circuit with 36l of hydraulic liquid. Most of it is contained in the hydraulic reservoir of the HKV. The HKV itself is placed in a small compartment in the right side of the turret rear and it can be accessed thru a large hatch in the turret top. It basically consists of an electric motor, powering an axial piston pump. The pump takes hydraulic liquid from the reservoir, compresses it and forces it into the hydraulic accumulator. From there, the liquid is passing thru a pipe system to the drives and back. Depending on the mode of operation of the FCS, the HKV is delivering pressures up to 160bar. As the system is heating up pretty much, it needs to be cooled with external air and constantly monitored by the FCS. In case of high temperatures, the crew is being informed and eventually the FCS is switching to lower operational mode (e.g. without weapon stabilization). The turret traverse drive is mounted inside the left side of the turret. It consists of a hydraulic transmission, which is connected with gearwheels to the turret ring inside the hull. To prevent rotations of the turret, the drive contains a service break, which is always active. It is being deactivated by pressing the security switches on commander’s or gunner’s control handles. In an emergency situation, the brake can also be release with a small handle mounted on the traverse drive housing. The elevation drive of the main gun consists of a hydraulic cylinder, which is filled with hydraulic liquid to move the main gun. The elevation drive is mounted below the main gun.
Control of turret and main gun is mainly done by gunner using his control handle. Moving it, results in a movement of the head mirror within the EMES. The change in position of the head mirror is reported to the weapon control system. The fire control computer is calculating an aiming point and the WNA is directing the gun accordingly. It has to be noted that usually sight and gun don’t use the same line of sight. As described before, the main gun is always following the sight, which is the master for all movements. Even though both are hydraulic systems, turret and gun drive allow very delicate movements, which is also an indicator for the extremely high quality of the design and manufacturing. Elevation speed of the main gun is listed with 0,0055 – 45deg/sec, traversing the turret is possible 0,0115 – 40deg/sec. A complete 360deg traverse of the turret can be completed in 9sec.
For emergency situations, the gunner is equipped with a manual turret and gun drive, consisting of two hand crank operated pumps. One is for traversing the turret, the other for elevating the main gun. Emergency mode usually means loss of electric power and thus outage of the HKV, eventually even loss of hydraulic liquid from the main system. Therefore the emergency mode is using a second hydraulic circuit. It is feed from the hydraulic reservoir from the gunner’s main sight housing front doors and pumps the oil towards the two normal drives for traverse and elevation. The manual drive allows a very fine, but also slow movement of turret and gun. To change the elevation of the main gun by 1deg, the hand crank has to be turned four times. For a similar horizontal movement of the turret, three turns with the other hand crank are necessary. It also needs to be noted that the gunner will exhaust very fast and slow even more down. Therefore he is also supported by the driver for horizontal movements, who is moving the complete vehicle to either side.
The fire control system of the Leopard 2 offers a total of three main and seven sub modes of operation. The main modes define the functionality delivered by the FCS, e.g. stabilization of gun and sight. The sub modes define how weapons and sights are being used. While the main modes can be directly selected, this is only partially possible for the sub ones.
The available sub modes are:
RH: Gunner is directing main gun using EMES or FERO
KH: Commander is directing main gun using PERI. In this mode, the line of sight for PERI and main gun are connected and the commander is using his control handle. A scenario for this sub mode would be an outage of EMES and/or gunner.
KW: Commander is directing the main gun using the EMES. The image generated by the EMES is being transferred into the eyepiece of the commander. He is directing the turret/main gun using his control handle.
KP: Commander is directing PERI, which is the normal situation. The commander is only controlling the PERI using the thumb switch on his control handle.
ZÜ: Target observing. The commander is moving the PERI on the line of sight of the EMES, which means that both sights are pointing at the same target, but both are independently from each other. This is being used to supervise the gunner without switching to EMES.
ZZÜ: Additional target observing. The commander is feeding the image of the EMES into his eyepiece. The line of sight of the PERI is not changed.
ZZ: Target assigning. The commander is first switching to KH, which means main gun and EMES are forced on the line of sight of the PERI. Following, he gives back control to the gunner. This mode is being used in case the commander is detecting a target and wants to have the gunner to take over further observation or attack.
The three main modes of the Leopard 2 FCS are called STAB EIN, BEOBACHTEN and TURM AUS. The Leopard 2AV had a fourth one called MARSCH, but this one is not available anymore.
STAB EIN (stabilization on): It is the most important operational mode, as all systems are in action and the true power of the Leopard 2 as an integrated weapon system can be fully unfolded. The stabilization for all sights and the weapon control are active. Dynamic lead, parallax motion compensation and cant correction are used for the calculation of the main gun’s aiming point. The sub modes RH, KH, KW, KP, ZZ, ZÜ and ZZÜ are available.
BEOBACHTEN (observation): This mode is used in case the tank is not moving, but still in action. It is also used in case of damages in the turret drive or FCS. It differs from STAB EIN mainly by the lack of stabilization to the gunner’s and commander’s sight. This means the tank is not anymore able to fight on the move. It also means that the gunner’s control handle has to be mechanically linked to the turret drive. This is called power steering and it fully inverts the operational mode of directing the main gun. The gunner is now directing the main gun and the EMES in parallel. If needed, the gunner can also use the emergency turret drives. Dynamic lead and parallax motion compensation are not available. Cant correction is still possible and the values for elevation correction and lead are being calculated. The sub modes RH, KP, ZÜ and ZZÜ are available. In mode BEOBACHTEN, the turret drive does not need to ensure the stabilization, thus it is also working with a much lower pressure. This is resulting in lower energy consumption and also the axial piston pump is stepping into action less frequently. This allows the usage of the tank without the main engine running for a longer time frame.
TURM AUS (turret off): This is the earlier mentioned emergency mode for operating turret and weapons. It is usually activated when the turret electrics and/or the turret drives are fully out of service. The gunner can direct the turret and the gun only by using the two hand cranks. Aiming is done with the auxiliary sight only, firing the main gun via an emergency generator. It is placed to the right of the main gun, directly beside the gunner’s position. Mechanical activation is resulting in an electric charge, which is igniting the propulsion of the round in the main gun. The driver is supporting the gunner with horizontal movements of the vehicle. The commander’s sight can’t be used and the only sub mode available is RH.
The fire control system of the Leopard 2 allows the engagement of stationary or moving targets while moving with full speed in nearly every terrain. It is possible to hit and destroy targets at a maximum range of 4.000m with the first round. The effective combat range is given with 2.500m. The average deviation of the main guns ammunition is 80cm on 4.000m. When using indirect directing, the tank is able of defeating targets at ranges up to 10.000m using HEAT-MP rounds.
It is important to mention the capability of the Leopard 2 to attack slow flying aerial targets. In general, this is possible with all modern MBTs, but it is actively trained only with the Leopard crews, as well as in the Soviet/Russian Army for the T-80/90. The gunner would engage these targets, e.g. helicopters, the same way as he would do with ground targets, but using STAB EIN. Targets can be attacked, which fly with a lateral speed of up to 250km/h. Because of the fast speed of aerial targets, the chance for a successful engagement is way lower compared to targets on the ground. But normally, every hit or even rounds that just miss the target will result in a kill. This is caused by the weak armour of helicopters, especially against 120mm APFSDS rounds.
The Leopard 2 was the first western tank to field a new 120mm smoothbore gun as main armament, which was introducing semi-combustible cartridge cases. This new weapon, which is also designated L/44, had been developed in Germany during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The gun was developed for the usage in main battle tank and tested with the MBT-70 and the VT1-2. First serial usage was with the Leopard 2. This also meant that the new gun was used instead of the older, reliable and proven 105mm gun. It was used in Germany with the Leopard 1 and even the new American Abrams MBT was equipped with it. Instead, Germany was putting a lot of trust in the performance of the new weapon and its development potential. Realistically speaking, it has to be stated that the selection of the 120mm gun shows the farsightedness of the developers and the political actors. Only this weapon was capable of delivering powerful ammunition on larger distances and to defy the most modern soviet counterparts.
The 120mm weapon is mounted in the central turret front. It is hydraulically directed and can be vertically moved between -9 and +20deg. This area is limited in case the turret has a position relatively to the hull between 3:30 and 8:30 o’clock. This so called “no fire zone” was setup to ensure that the gun is not getting in contact with the hull top while firing and/or while the tank is on the move. To achieve it, the vertical movement of the gun is limited to a range of +3 to +20deg. When operating the FCS in mode “Beobachten”, the turret movement is automatically stopped in case the no fire zone is reached and the gun is depressed below +3deg. In mode “Stab”, the gun is automatically elevated and depressed when leaving the no fire zone. This is done without any impact on the rotation speed of the turret.
The vertical movement of the gun is normally limited by the gun drive. But for emergency situations mechanical end stops are available on the inner turret roof and on the main gun mantlet.
The main gun is equipped with a travel lock. It is placed on the hull rear top between the two ring coolers. The turret needs to be traversed to the 6o’clock position and the gun depressed manually on the hull top. The long hull makes sure that the gun is not overlapping. On the Leopard 1 the gun was longer than the hull rear, which caused some serious injuries in case of rear end collisions with other vehicles or tanks.
The ammunition types available for the 120mm gun were the DM12 multi-purpose round and the DM13 kinetic energy round. The DM12 is using a hollow charge warhead, surrounded by a belt of splitters. This makes the DM12 a multipurpose round, which can be used against armoured as well as soft and area targets. The DM13 is carrying a small calibre, fin stabilized projectile, consisting of pressed tungsten carbide powder. It is taking its penetration power only from the kinetic energy and is used only against armoured targets. The ammunition load for the main gun has a max load of 44 grenades, of which 15 are stored in the turret rear and 29 in a storage to left of the driver in the hull front. Rearming is done either thru the loader’s hatch or thru a small hatch in the left turret side.
Secondary armament of the Leopard 2 consists of one 7.62mm coax-MG and a 7.62mm AA-MG on a rail mount at the loader’s hatch. The coax is a MG3A1 and the AA-MG a MG3. Main difference is that the MG3A1 is using a rubber plug instead of the butt stock and it also doesn’t carry a bipod. A ball ring is mounted close to the recoil booster, which is used to fit the weapon better inside the coax mount. Those modifications can be easily done to any normal MG3 as well.
The coax-MG is mounted the left of the main gun and it fires thru a hole in the frontal turret armour. The mount is used to fix the MG and to fire it. Normally the firing mechanism is operated electromechanically. A magnet is used to trigger the firing mechanism, which then activates the normal trigger of the gun. In emergency situations the loader can also operate the trigger manually. The right side of the MG mount also contains a bag which catches the empty cartridges. Unlike the main gun, the coax is not equipped with a smoke evacuator. Instead, a small ventilator is mounted close to the firing hole in the turret front. It is activated by the loader and blows gasses out of the tank. Ammunition is belt fed to the coax-MG from a large box mounted left of the main gun. It contains two chambers, containing up to 500 MG rounds each. The AA-MG is placed in a simple rail mount. It is located on top of the loader’s hatch and can’t be operated from inside the vehicle. The mount allows elevating the MG between -10 and +75deg. The horizontal laying range is 45deg to each side, but the weapon can also be traversed 360deg around the hatch. The mount also holds an ammunition box, which contains the belted ammunition. The box can be removed in case a plastic made one way box should be used instead. A rail mount is also available at the commander’s hatch. As it was not used, it got removed later. Each crew member of the Leopard 2 is also equipped with an individual weapon. Driver and gunner have the pistol P1, commander and loader the sub-machine gun MP2A1 (UZI with foldable butt stock). Pistols are carried in a holster on the belt. Mounts are available for the sub-machine guns, one behind the commander’s station and one in front of the loader. Usually commander and gunner exchange the weapons. In addition, the crew also has a flare gun and four frag grenades. The later ones are stored in the turret ammunition bunker.
À propos ammunition bunker in the turret rear: During training missions, the crews tent to divert it from its normal function and use it as storage for food and supplies. Reason is simply that the room is surrounded by heavy armour, which results in a low and constant temperature. Beverage cans can be taped together lengthwise and stored in the ammunition rack. Same can be done with food cans or baguettes.
The crew of the Leopard 2 consists of driver in the hull and gunner, loader and commander in the turret.
The driver’s station is in the right hull front. Main tasks of the driver are driving the vehicle and maintenance of the hull. He is only armed with his personal weapon; there is no other arm available.
The driver’s station can be accessed thru the fighting compartment or thru a hatch. It is placed on the hull front top, right above the driver’s seat, and opens to the right. It is operated with an elevating and opening mechanism, mounted to the right of the driver. The hatch can only be opened when the turret is locked in two specific positions and switched off. Only bypassing the security switch does allow it anytime. The hatch contains two large optical periscopes, a third one is placed left of the hatch. The size and positioning of the periscopes provide the driver with a field of view of 45deg. The periscopes are not heated, but they can be cleaned with water jets. The centre periscope is also equipped with two small wipers.
The driver’s seat has a simple, but quite comfortable design. It consists of seat base and back rest, which can be tilted, laid down flat or even removed completely. The seat can be locked in two positions. In the lower position, the driver is placed low in the hull. The driver’s hatch can be closed and the driver is using the periscopes for observation. This seat arrangement is chosen when driving off road or when the main weapon is in use. The upper seating position allows the driver to drive with an open hatch. Because he has head outside the vehicle, he has also a much better vision. This position is used mainly when driving in road traffic or when manoeuvring. The seat is spring operated; changing from one position to the other requires some muscular strength and some weight stabilizing.
An emergency hatch is placed below the driver’s seat in the hull bottom, which allows the crew to exit the vehicle in emergency situations, even under fire, relatively unharmed. To access the hatch, the driver’s seat has to be removed to the front. This is, taking the small dimensions of the driver’s position into account, quite an ambitious undertaking. The escape of the crew thru the small hatch in the small space between hull and surface also needs to be seen as an artistic task.
To control the tank, the driver is equipped with a steering handle, two paddles and a gear shift box. Control signals are transferred hydraulically or electrically. The steering handle is placed in front of the driver and its usage is equal to a steering wheel in an ordinary car. It just comes with a very small steering angle. The steering handle can be adjusted in height and depth. On the left side of the steering wheels are the controls for the indicators, high bean and horn. Pedals are placed below the steering wheel. The right one is the accelerator, the centre one is the brake pedal. A foot rest is mounted on the left side. On its front a switch is placed, which is used to control the wipers on the drivers central periscope. The switch has several stages, which should allow an interval based activation of the wipers or cleaning with water. Practically speaking, the foot control is, especially with combat boots, very inaccurate. The driver usually hits the button until you have the desired function on or off. Above the steering handle is the operating unit of the fire warning and extinguishing system installed. It informs the driver of a fire in the hull and allows the automatic or manual triggering of the extinguishing system. To the right of the driver's seat, the shift control assembly, an emergency shift mechanism and the parking brake are mounted. All three are fixed on the inside wall of the hull. Shifting of the gears is controlled via the gear selector switch on the upper side of the shift control assembly. It allows the direct selection of the first three gears available with the transmission, as well as the automatic mode. In addition, the shift control assembly has a switch to control the direction of driving. It allows forward, reverse, neutral and pivot. The lever of the parking brake has a very simple function; it just activates or deactivates the brake. The parking brake is designed as a very safe system. It is always closed and needs hydraulic pressure to get released. That means the engine needs to run and/or enough reserves have to be available in the hulls hydraulic system. The activation of the parking brake is also possible on the move; however, this leads to the destruction of the unit. The emergency gear shift allows the mechanical switching of the 2nd gear and the selection of forward or reverse direction. Another position also allows the forward operation with a mechanically bridged torque converter, which allows the towing of the vehicle.
The driver's control panel is mounted left of the driver and divided into two sections. The upper one contains starter button, ignition switch, stop button, switch for vehicle lights and the hazard lights, speedometer, tachometer, fuel and battery gauges. In addition there are three small displays, containing indicator lights for the status or outage of different hull systems. The left side of the lower part of the driver's control panel contains switches for the heater, the two bilge pumps, controls for the NBC protection system and the turret/hull ventilation system. To the right of the switches are a number of fuses for electrical hull systems.
Starting the vehicle is very simple. The ignition key must be in "start" position. In this way the electrical system and the fuel pumps will be put into operation. The gear selector must be on "neutral" position and the parking brake must be locked. Alternatively, you can also activate the service brake and prevent the vehicle from rolling. Now, push the starter button, making the display "Preheat" light up. After 5-10s pre-heating, the starter is pushed to fully, which activates the starter mechanism. Once the engine starts running, release the starter, select the appropriate gear, select forward or reverse and release the brake. Have fun.
The turret crew consists of three soldiers. The left side of the turret contains the station of the loader. He is responsible for the failure free operation of the vehicles weapons, as well as reloading of ammunition. To achieve this, he has free access to the main gun, and to the two machine guns. Also, the majority of the ammunition for the different weapons is stored in the left turret side. The loader is the only member of the crew, which fulfils its normal activities in a standing position. A folding seat is mounted on the left side, which also serves to allow the gunner standing in the hatch. To the right side of the loader is the main gun with the breech and cartridge box. Left of the main gun, in the frontal part of the loader’s position, the coax-MG is mounted together with a large ammunition storage box. To store personal equipment of the crew, a storage basket is placed in the frontal part of the turret basket. The left side of the loader’s position is nearly free of any equipment. The turret side only has a mount for a sub machine pistol, the ammunition hatch and a switch to open the door of the ammunition storage in the turret bustle. Below in the turret basket is only a mount for the for the loader’s jump seat. The rest of the basked is free and allows easy access to the hull, where the hydraulic system and fuses are placed. It also helps to relocate main gun ammunition from the hull to the turret. Behind the driver, in the turret rear, is an access door to the ammunition storage. To its right are the radio systems, as well as the central logic unit of the FCS.
Left of the ammunition bunker door is a hand pump including pressure gauge for the turret ring sealing. It is used by the loader to get air in the sealing and thus preventing water from entering the tank while wading. The loader’s control box, which is the main interface between loader and FCS, is mounted to the right side of the loader’s hatch inside the turret. It allows the loader to select the ammunition type, has a security switch for the main gun, and allows the activation of the turret’s hydraulic drive and the configuration of the main gun loading position. A total of six ammunition types can be selected, using three switches on the front of the control panel. Each switch can activate two types of rounds, training and live ones. A switch on the back side of the box selects the related ammunition group. For shooting, the loader inserts the round that the gunner requested into the chamber of the main gun, and then he releases the security switch on the loaders control panel. Afterwards gunner and commander take control of the main gun. Both are located in a tandem arrangement in the right turret side.
The gunner is placed in the front, down in the turret basket and the commander behind higher in the turret. The gunner’s only task is the usage of the main and secondary turret armament. He can rotate the turret and elevate/depress the main gun. Directing turret and gun is done by a control handle, which is mounted in front of the gunner’s seat. For rotating the turret, the handle is turned clockwise (right) or counter clockwise (left). For elevation of the gun the upper part of the handle needs to be pulled towards the gunner, for depression it needs to be pushed forward. The handle contains switches to fire, lase and switch on the dynamic lead. All switches are available twice, which enables the gunner to activate each function either with the right or the left hand. Each side of the handle also holds a security switch, of which one needs to be pressed in order to activate the power traversing of the turret and the main gun. Directly behind the gunner’s control handle are the emergency handles for traversing and main gun elevation. They are used for aiming the main gun in case of damage on the fire control system. The binocular eyepiece of the gunner’s main sight is mounted above the control handle, in front of the gunner. It can be adjusted to the gunner’s interpupillary distance and dioptres. Left of the main sight are the monocular eyepiece of the FERO-Z 18 auxiliary sight, as well as the monitor for the PZB-200 night sight. Right of the gunner’s main sight is the gunner’s control panel. The upper part of the panel is protected by a metal plate. Behind are the switches for boresighting main gun and sight. Below are status lights, which indicate the status of FCS and armament. The lower part of the panel contains the controls for drift and illumination of the cross hair, as well as the selector of main gun or coax-MG. Below, in a separate panel, are the controls for the night sight. To the right of the gunner’s control panel is the one for the FCS. It allows setting of certain values, which are relevant for the calculation of the aiming point.
The commander is placed in the upper right side of the turret. His task is to lead the tank and to support the gunner in observing the battlefield. In emergency situations he is also able to use the main gun. The commander’s position can be accessed directly thru the hatch in the turret roof. It is equipped with a rail, with is used to mount an AA-MG. As the commander is usually busy with other tasks, the MG was normally not mounted and later removed. The hatch itself is operated by a larger mechanic, which allows lifting and turning from inside the vehicle. The hatch can be operated in three different positions. In the lower position, the hatch is lowered into the turret roof and locked from inside. The middle position means that the hatch is lifted a bit. This enables the commander to have his head inside the hatch, which gives him a better 360deg view. But as the hatch is not moved to the side, it gives also some additional protection to the commander. The third position is the open hatch. To do so, the hatch is lifted fully, then traversed 180deg, lowered on the turret rear and locked.
For observation of the tank’s surrounding, the commander is equipped with three large periscopes, mounted around his hatch. They give a full 360deg field of view. For battlefield observation, a PERI-R17 panoramic sight is mounted in front of the commander’s hatch. The eyepiece is inside the turret to the right front of the commander. It is just monocular, but has a head rest. To the left of the sights eyepiece are the controls for the tank’s testing unit, the commander’s display, the emergency stop switch and the rocker switch for the Peri. To the right of the sight are the controls for the smoke grenade launchers, the sight Peri’s boresighting controls and the control box for the intercom system.
The periscope and the weapon turret can be controlled by the commander using a fixed control stick, which is placed right of the commander. It looks like a joystick, but it is fixed and can’t be moved. Control is done by using a thumb switch on top of the stick. This design was chosen, as a movable stick would not be of much use inside a moving combat vehicle. Still, the thumb switch is not very precise or easy to use when directing the turret. For the commander’s sight it is sufficient. Besides the thumb switch, the control stick also contains switches to activate the laser range finder of the gunner’s sight, to fire the main and secondary armament and to select the control mode. It also has a security switch, which needs to be pressed constantly to enable the other controls of the stick.
Behind the commander’s seat are the central control boxes for the FCS and the two radios.
The seat of the commander is very simple and can be adjusted in height. This enables the commander to stand in the hatch. Usage and comfort of the seat are far away from the standards available with the older Leopard 1, which was noted by many commanders when they switched to the Leopard 2.
The Leopard 2 was designed as a vehicle to be part of a mobile defence and to be operated out of hull down positions. The protection was adjusted accordingly.
The hull is made from welded steel plates and the front contains spaced armour. This design is a compromise towards high mobility and against maximum armour. This is absolutely understandable, as the hull front is less exposed than other parts of the tank, e.g. the turret front. Moreover, the hull would have been protected when operating out of hull down positions. The hull sides do not contain any special armour. But the contained storage rooms and fuel cells increase the actual protection level, especially against shaped charges, significantly. The suspension is also protected by side skirts. The frontal third is made of heavy skirts, containing spaced armour for increased protection against shaped charges. But the major part of the suspension is protected by so called light skirts, steel meshes covered by a strong rubber liner. These skirts are intended to detonate rounds before they impact the actual vehicle. But they are also catching splitters and small arms rounds. The Leopard 2 hull has also been developed to withstand mines much better than its predecessors. The suspension can cope with the loss of one arm or road wheel pair and just continue operation. And the hull was designed to deflect the pressure of detonating mines to the sides, limiting the effect as much as possible. The design is not perfect, but protects the crew from most known mine types. An indication for the suboptimal performance of the mine protection is the fact that the later introduced mine clearing tank Keiler was fielded with a hull of the M48. And even later, an additional mine protection was introduced with the Leopard 2A6M. The turret of the Leopard 2 is also made from welded steel plates, which are all ordered vertically on front, sides and rear. The ones on the front are also sloped to the sides. This form was chosen to optimize the space available for incorporating spaced armour modules and minimize the weight at the same time. Sloped armour would have resulted in a higher protection level, but have also increased the turret weight way above the limits given for the design of the tank. The turret armour is enforced with spaced armour modules at the front and the frontal sides until the hatches. This design was based on the correct assumption that the tank is always pointing its turret towards the enemy, thus most of the incoming rounds will hit the turret front. The right turret front also contains the gunner’s sight, resulting in a ballistic hole. A similar design flaw was created at the left turret side by incorporating an ammunition hatch for the loader. The rear turret sides and the turret roof are made of hardened steel with a thickness between 50 and 25mm. While the turret front is offering optimal protection against kinetic energy and shaped charge rounds, the top and the rear can only withstand light and medium calibre rounds or splitters.
Besides the armour based protection, the designers of the Leopard 2 also invested a lot of effort in the prevention and/or reduction of the emission of electromagnetic waves in the different spectra, as well as dust and noise. Compared to the Leopard 1, one will definitively note the different noise level. This basically because based on the usage of a new engine. It is larger, which makes it impossible not to emit any noise. But the resulting sound is much lower in frequency, which makes it difficult to locate the source. The tracks of the Leopard 2 also emit less noise, as they are using lots of rubber to prevent vibrations and reduce noise. The signature of the tank in the spectrum of visible light was reduced by the use of special paint, which also had a positive impact on the overall IR signature. A quite significant part of the IR signature of the tank is being produced at the hull rear. This is where the cooling system with its massive ring coolers and the engine exhausts are. A large scale reduction of the signature would have been possible only by reducing the size of the engine and thus also reducing the output. This wasn’t really an option. Therefore, designers focused on controlling the emissions. Most powerful means is the directing of the output air flow from the coolers thru a large grating, which covers the full width of the hull rear. The air flow is also directed downwards, which prevents the hot air from moving upwards. At the same time, the cooler exit air is mixing with the hot exhaust gasses, thus cooling them down as well. The downside of this design is, depending on the ground, the dispersing of a larger amount of dust, which might help the enemy to detect the vehicle. Dust is also raised by the tracks, especially at higher speed. The skirts reduce it a bit, but not significantly. The skirts are also partially masking the heat signature of the suspension. When a Leopard 2 is moving, the suspension has to handle enormous forces, which are partially transformed into heat and can be detected as heat signature of tracks and road wheels. The air between side skirts and suspension covers the signature and makes it less visible.
Another means of camouflage, this time for the complete vehicle, are the 16 smoke grenade launchers. 8 launchers are placed in two rows on each side of the turret and can be fired manually by the commander. He has a small control panel from which he can select the side to fire from (right/left) and if a single round or a fan of four rounds should be fired. The range of the smoke grenades is 50-60m. Originally, the smoke generated was only covering visual light. Later on, rounds were available which generated an aerosol, which was suppressing the IR signature as well. This makes it impossible to detect the tank using thermal imaging sights. But it also blinds the tank itself, as this smoke is working both ways.
The Leopard 2 is also equipped with an NBC protection system. The contained overpressure system contains a filter, which holds back nearly 100% of the particles contained in the intake air. It is also generating an overpressure within the fighting compartment, which prevents toxic/nuclear/biologic agents from entering the vehicle. This enables the crew to operate for a longer duration within contaminated areas. The crew does not need to wear the personal protection means, which would hinder the normal operation. The NBC protection system is placed in the left hull side beside the turret ring. A small air intake is placed on top of the hull. The air is then directed thru a coarse filter, where dust is removed. Normally the air is then directed inside the crew’s compartment, where, depending on the operational mode, an overpressure between 2 and 4mbar is generated. For combat use, an additional particulate and gas filter is used, which finally introduces the true NBC protection. The filter can be easily accessed and replaced over a hatch in the left hull side. The ABC protection system has a very compact design; the largest parts are the actual filters. A cooling functionality, as it is done in the American M1, is not present.
NBC protection is also continued within the vehicle. All sights and periscopes are equipped with a glare shield. This could be simple leather flaps, which are manually moved in front of the periscopes. The commander has an optical element, which he can flip into the optical channel. And the gunner can close the protection doors at his sight housing. Another effect of nuclear weapons is the EMP. It is inducing a charge in all electrical and electronical systems, which can overload and damage them. To prevent that, all systems in the Leopard 2 are hardened and equipped with special electromagnetic shielding. This protection was evaluated in the laboratory only. It’s usage under combat conditions was fortunately not necessary up to now.
During training exercises, the NBC protection system is sometimes used for the transport of drinks. As the filters are usually not present, the resulting space is used to store several cans of drinks. If the size of the filter storage was adjusted to the cans by the designers is not known anymore.
The Leopard 2 was rolled out with very much standard communication equipment. The crew is equipped with an intercom system. Each crew member has a cushioned leather cap, which includes the earphones. Originally throat microphones were issued, but later replaced by normal microphones mounted to the left earphone. It also contains a switch, which allows the control of the communication. The rear position can be fixed and allows the communication with the other crew members in the vehicle. The middle position allows only the listening to the net and also radio communication. The forward position, which doesn’t allow the switch to be fixed, is for outgoing communication over the radio system. Driver and loader have individual control boxes for the communication equipment at their stations, gunner and commander share one. The box allows the selection of the radio system (1/2/listen both) and volume control for the headset. Finally there is also a loud speaker, mounted on the turret roof behind the loader’s control panel.
The Leopard 2 comes with two radio sets SEM 25/30, mounted behind the commander in the turret rear. Each crew member can receive incoming calls on both stations in parallel, but sending is only possible on one at a time. Normally, the tank would listen on the net of the own and the higher unit, e.g. platoon and company or company and battalion. The antennas for the radios are placed on the turret rear sides. There is no special command version of the Leopard 2, all vehicles share the same equipment. As tank crews are very ingenious, it was just a question of time until the plug of the headset was connected to a 3.5mm stereo jack. Like that, the crew was able to connect a “walkman” or a radio to the intercom system. When doing the right wiring, the crew was even able to run a small pirate radio station over the combat net. This was, of course, not really appreciated by the chiefs.
First Appearance: 1981
Experiences with the first batch of tanks led to the 2A1, which entered service in 1981. Most important change was the rollout of a new thermal imaging sight for the EMES 15. The magnification is 4x or 12x and the gunner can invert the polarity of the displayed image. The system allows the detection, tracking and attack of targets under all weather conditions at distances of 2.500m and beyond. Only limitations to the system, as with all optical sensors, are the weather conditions. Heavy rain, fog or snow can limit the functionalities or blind it. Other downsides of the thermal imaging sight are the high energy consumption and the noise level during operation.
The new sight also brought a new sub mode to the FCS. RW, which means that the gunner is directing the main gun using the thermal sight, is available for STAB EIN and BEOBACHTEN.
To monitor the FCS a computer based testing device (Rechnergestütztes Prüfgerät) RPP 1-8 was integrated. It displays the status of the FCS, reports errors and allows also running of test scripts.
The cross wind sensor at the turret rear was removed because it only indicates the wind over the tanks own position but not over the target. It was replaced by a circular blanking plate.
Other changes are the moving of the fuel fillers from the hull deck plate to the hull side top. The ammo storage was also changed and the switches in the crew compartment have been changed. The circular commander's ring was replaced with a more angular version. Also, the commander's PERI R-17 was raised by 5cm on a thicker collar. Longer tow cables were introduced which cross over at the back and the armoured cover over the NBC intake was enlarged.
In addition to the normal radio sets, the Leopard 2A1 was also equipped with a cable bound communication system. It consisted of a receiver inside the tank called Ortsbesprechgerät (ObsprGer), as well as a mobile terminal called Fernbesprechgerät (FBsprGer). The OBsprGer is linked to the radio sets inside the tank and also provides connectors for the intercom system and bifilar field wires. Another, so called tank-tank-connector was added to the rear turret, just below the left antenna mount. Here again, it was only a connector for the field wire. Such a cable with a length of up to 850m was carried at the turret rear. The idea was, that one crew member would man a post outside the tank and keep communication over the cable. It was possible to connect the normal headset or a handset to the FBsprGer. The communication to the tank would then go over from FBsprGer via field wire to the tank-tank connector, from there to the OBsprGer and from there into the intercom net. Mobile radio sets were not available for tank crews these days. It was not only possible to contact the crew, but also use the tanks radio sets. The maximal distance between OBsprGer and FBsprGer is 3km. As an alternative to the FbsprGer, it was also possible to connect a standard field telephone to the tank-tank connector or even another Leopard 2A1.
750 Leopard 2A1 were produced for the German Army in two batches (Batches 2 and 3).
All vehicles of the first lot (Leopard 2A0) were later equipped with the thermal imaging sight for the gunner. Also the changes introduced with the A1 were made.
First Appearance: 1984
The Leopard 2A3 was rolled out in 1984 with the 4th production lot and a quantity of 300 tanks. The most visible change is the usage of a new three-tone camouflage painting. Other changes are the removal of all asbestos from the exhaust system and an improved parking brake. To prevent black eyes or broken noses for the gunners, a removable chest support was added. The older SEM 25/30 radios were now replaced by the long range SEM 80/90, which use automatic frequency selection to hinder interception. The new radio sets were placed on a GP 80 base plate behind the commander’s station. In addition there was a test set mounted to the right of the commander, which is monitoring and reporting the status of base plate and radio sets. Together with the new radio sets, OBsprGer and FbsprGer were removed. The tank-tank connector is still available and can be used to connect to a field wire. It was not very practical to have a crew member manning a post far away from the vehicle. This is usually done by the supporting infantry units, which are equipped with mobile radio sets. Older vehicles were also brought to the new level. But the fielding of the new radio sets was done separately, depending on the larger tank units. Therefore it was also possible to have older versions of the tank using the SEM 80/90 and sometimes Leopard 2A3 or even A4 were still running SEM 25/30.
Starting with lot 5, the last version of the Leopard 2 out of a serial production was being rolled out, the A4. Main focus of the development of this version was the improvement of the passive protection. This was mainly done by replacing the so far used spaced armour by a modern multi-layer one. The ammunition hatch on the left turret side was also removed. Older tanks, which were updated to the level A4, got the hatch removed and closed. This was resulting in a clearly visible “welding scar”, an easy way to recognize older tanks. To allow an easier use of modern ammunition types and to increase the power of the FCS, the analogue fire control computer was replaced by a digital one. Specific ballistic values for the ammunition types are stored on small platines and can be easily replaced if needed. The ZLHV is now equipped with an interface for the AGDUS training system, which is comparable to the MILES system used by the US Army. The system consists of a main computer with printer, a laser and several prisms. The A4 is also the first Leopard 2 version to field a new Halon based fire depression system for crew and engine. A total of 695 A4 have been produced for the German army and all modifications were also done to the older tanks in active duty. The only tanks excluded were the ones in long time storage. Even after the series production was closed down, changes were made to the tanks. The most important improvement was the introduction of a boresighting device, which could be used by the crews under combat conditions. Tanks equipped with the system can be easily recognized by the mirror of the muzzle reference system. For boresighting, the gunner is putting a light on one ocular of its eyepiece. When looking thru the second one, he will see two circles. One is visualizing the aiming point of the gun, the other the one of the main sight. Boresighting with make both circles overlapping each other. Experiences gathered over years were fed back to the developers and finally resulted in version A4. The Leopard 2A4 was the last version of the Leopard 2 which came out of a serial production for the Bundeswehr. At the same time it was the most balanced version. The tank was relatively light and mobile, the sensors were all in place, but still not perfect. But still, the A4 is the version which was kept is service the longest time before getting replaced. And even today, armies of different countries field this version, be it Poland, Finland, Singapore or Chile.
First Appearance: 1990
TThe VT-2000 was a first try to get rid of old habits and to break new grounds in modern tank design. The idea behind the tank was quite simple: Replace the core crew of four soldiers by two revolving crews of two. This would have resulted in a much smaller vehicle, as only two men would have to be protected and not 4. Also the time the tank is in action could be much longer, as one crew can rest, while the other one is using the tank. And finally, would a loss of the vehicle only mean to replace two soldiers, which would reduce the training cost. Not to mention the reduced losses in case of a fatal hit. To receive a vehicle that could be operated by two soldiers only, new ways in handling the different functions had to be developed. The loader was easily replaced by an automatic system. Consolidating gunner, driver and commander was a difficult task. The test rig was supposed to have two commanders. A normal Leopard 2 hull was used and instead of a turret, a so called combat compartment (KRC) container was added. It was fixed on the hull and contained the stations for the two crew members, as well as the sights. As the vehicle was a test rig, no armament was available. The driver’s seat in the hull front was still available, but only used to transport an observer. All driver’s controls were locked and couldn’t be used.
Both crew members are placed beside each other inside the KRC, both have identical controls and displays. Each station contains screens for day and night sight, a joystick to control the sights, a steering wheel, as well as handles and pedals for driving. For reverse driving, one station was equipped with additional controls and the related crew member had to traverse the seat 180deg. Like that it was made sure that the tank would always drive in the direction the designated driver is looking. Displays for the driver’s sight, as well as the IFIS were available only once and shared between the two crew members.
A large sensor mast was mounted at the rear of the KRC. It contained independent sights for the two crew members, each containing day and night channels, as well as a laser range finder. Three cameras for the driver’s sight were placed between the two large sight systems. The sights for the two crew members could be elevated and traversed independently from each other.
The VT-2000 was only a test vehicle and the developed was stopped after the defined test period. The usages showed that the basic concept was usable, but that that there were certain limitations. The crew was able to handle the vehicle and fulfill combat tasks. But the consolidation of the crew responsibilities didn’t result in higher productivity. It was simply not possible to drive the vehicle and observe the battlefield at the same time. One crew member was always occupied with driving, while the other was observing the battlefield. There was little time left for commanding the vehicle or coordinate with other vehicles or units. To have a vehicle, which would allow this, a further development of the sights would have been necessary. Automatic target acquisition, classification and tracking would be badly needed. This was not possible at the time the VT-2000 was evaluated. The vehicle was therefore abandoned, only some systems were used for other trials, e.g. the IFIS.
First Appearance: 1988
Already at the end of the 1980s, the German Army started with concepts to improve the abilities of the Leopard 2. The final result was combat improvement program, introduced in several stages. Stage I focused on the improvement of the firepower and became real with the Leopard 2A6.
The development of Stage II started with a model in 1988. A normal serial Leopard 2 has been equipped with wooden mock-ups. The goal was to observe the impact of additional modules on mobility and usability. In 1989 a second tank followed, the KVT (Komponentenversuchsträger - Component test bed). This vehicle was equipped with additional armour packages on turret and hull front, turret roof and frontal turret sides. The sights did not change, but they were moved on the turret. To close a ballistic cap on the right turret front the EMES 15 has been raised. As this had an impact on the field of view of the commander's sight, the PERI R17 was moved behind the commander's cupola and also raised. The exit of the FERO Z18 is now placed over the gun's mantlet and equipped with a mechanical door. To increase the passive protection level, the KVT was equipped with an electromechanical drive for turret and main gun. In addition the KVT had a turbine powered APU mounted inside the hull rear. The changes resulted in an increase of the combat weight by over 5 tons. To compensate this, changes have been made also to the torsion bars and the suspension system.
After the successful tests, the KVT was modified to act as IVT (Instrumentenversuchsträger – Instrument Test bed). IVT was mainly used for the tests of the new IFIS (Integriertes Führungs- und Informationssystem – Integrated Command and Information System), which was a first digital communication system developed for the Leopard 2. When used with the IVT, the IFIS consisted of a touch sensitive CRT display, which displayed maps and tactical information. The system was linked to a navigation system, which delivered data on the vehicles own position, thus enabling navigation. A data link to other units was also available to enable exchange of tactical data.
To judge on the capabilities of the IVIS, it has to be noted that the system was developed in the late 1980s. Mobile navigation systems were not available and computer systems were not as powerful as they are today. IVIS was a first test and never made it into a serial production. Instead the system got further developed and current versions are used in Sweden, Spain and Greece.
During the 1990s, Germany developed a 140mm smoothbore gun for the Leopard 2 and its 3rd combat improvement program. To test out the weapon’s capabilities, it was mounted to a Leopard 2. The vehicle was not yet equipped with the new turret armour and it also still had the electro-hydraulic turret drive. To cope with the extra weight of the main gun, counter weights were added to the turret rear. It also needs to be noted, that the tank was not equipped with an automatic loader. The tests were partially successful. The gun clearly showed its superior penetration power, but also the issues with the handling. The available Leopard 2 were never equipped with the new gun and it is also not planed anymore.
First Appearance: 1990
In 1990, two Leopard 2 from the 8th batch have been modified to become TVM1 (Truppenversuchsmuster - Troop demonstrator). Both vehicles differed in the minimal (TVM min) and maximal (TVM max) modification complexity compared to the basic Leopard 2A4. Both vehicles have been tested extensively by the Army. The TVM max has been comparable to the KVT, but was equipped with the new PERI R17A2. In addition (as also with the KVT) a tip visor for the commander was mounted. Each of the periscopes in the commander's cupola included several visor lines, dividing the field of view into several sectors. For each sector a switch was mounted under the periscope. In case a target was sighted in a sector the commander just pressed the related button and his panoramic sight moved into the right direction. The time until the target is tracked can be decreased dramatically, in tests up to 40%. The TVM min was equipped with the PERI R17, mounted also behind the commander's cupola. In addition a sight called "battlefield loupe" was mounted in front of the cupola. The TVM min was not equipped with the armoured road wheel caps as the TVM max and also not with the tip visor. The turret/weapon drive was hydro mechanical.
First Appearance: 1990
The result of the TVM1 tests was the TVM2. It was comparable to the TVM max, but without the tip visor and with additional storage boxes. This tank was used for the Swedish tank trials. Based on the so far collected test results the final design of the Leopard 2A5 has been defined on a conference in Mannheim in 1992. The participating countries were Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The final configuration is also known as "Mannheim configuration". A last prototype called TVM2 mod. had been finished in 1993 and is seen as the last real Leopard 2A5 prototype.
First Appearance: 1995
The new technologies, tested with the IVT, KVT and TVM, have been part of the second stage of the Leopard 2 combat improvement project. As the list of potential improvements was quite long, but the available became more and more limited during the 1990s, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland came to a common configuration called “Manheimer Configuration”. It contained changes, which were supposed to be rolled out as Leopard 2A5. The covered areas were, command and control, as well as protection.
The second stage of the Leopard 2 combat improvement project was done for the KRK of the Bundeswehr between 1995 and 1998. A total of 225 vehicles were produced under the designation Leopard 2A5. A second lot had the size of 125, bringing the total of A5 available to 350. The changes were not done to complete vehicles, but turrets of lot 1-4 and hulls of lot 6-8. This makes absolute sense, as the older turrets received massive changes, while the hulls were kept nearly unchanged. The A5 was developed shortly after the cold war came to an end. As the following A6, it was widely influenced by the older tank tactics. The expectations of the army in the new tank were set accordingly. Reasonable changes, like the electric turret drive and the thermal sight for the commander where warmly welcomed. The equipment of the tank with the additional armour, which has to be carried at any time, is from an operational point of view only partially understandable. It doesn’t bring any advantage in the daily training. Instead it is reducing the tanks performance and increases wear, thus hindering the crews. Instead it would have been a better solution to prepare the tanks for a quick refitting and store the armour until needed.
The Leopard 2A5 is equals to previous versions of the Leopard 2, but can be identified by its distinctive armour on the turret front. It is V-shaped with a flat slope towards the turret. Additional armour modules have been mounted to the frontal turret sides as well. The rest of the turret can be clearly recognized as Leopard 2, but there are further modifications. The housing for the gunner’s main sight has been moved upwards and is now placed on the turret top. The auxiliary sight was also moved from the right side of the gun on top of the gun mantlet. This also means that the KADAG can’t be mounted here; it was moved to a mount on the left turret front.
The hatches for the turret crew are still in place. Most important change is the use of a large, semipermeable periscope in front of the commander’s hatch. The new, massive commander’s independent sight is now placed behind the commander’s hatch. The turret rear still mounts the storage boxes for the crew’s personal equipment. The boxes are now fully closed. There are additional boxes, as well as small open baskets at the sides.
The hull changes are not as obvious as they are on the turret. The driver’s station is now equipped with a new sliding hatch, which delivers a much better protection. To the left of the driver’s hatch, on the hull front, are mounts for camouflage net poles. Older versions of the Leopard 2 had no special mounts for the poles. They were usually transported on other vehicles, or inside the tank. Or some units also had custom made mounts, to store the poles on the turret sides.
The driver of the Leopard 2A5 is now equipped with a rear view camera. It is mounted on the hull rear and connected to a small monitor to the left of the driver. The camera is closed by a small hatch and only opened when it is really needed. On top of the camera a reverse driving aid is mounted. It’s basically a long rod with a white ball on top, which indicates the commander where the hull ends. A similar tool was mounted on the right end of the hull on previous versions of the tank. Rest of the hull is basically similar to the hulls of the final Leopard 2A4 batch.
The propulsion system of the Leopard 2A5 is identical to the previous versions, there are no changes.
The fire control system of the Leopard 2A5 is basically identical to the one used in the A4, but there are two major improvements. Most important is the usage of a new electric fire control system, called E-WNA. It was tested for several years and comes with several advantages compared to its predecessor. The first is the reduced energy consumption, as there is no conversion necessary. It is also resulting in a significant reduction of the emission of noise and thermal energy. In addition, the protection of the crew is increased. In case of an impacting round, a hydraulic system using highly pressurized liquid can mean a significant risk for the crew. If a pipeline is perforated, the pressurized hydraulic liquid can insure the crew. It will also quickly form an aerosol, which adds an additional risk of fire and explosion. The new E-WNA simply removes these risks. The hydraulic room in the right turret rear is now used for storage, usually for the AA-MG.
The hydraulic drives for turret and main gun were replaced by electrically driven ones. The new drives are smaller, but mounted on the same places as their hydraulic predecessors. The speed or quality of directing turret or gun has not been affected by that change.
The usage of the E-WNA, which basically meant the removal of all hydraulically turret systems, was resulting in two additional modifications. The doors on the gunner’s EMES-15 housing are now electrically operated. A small control panel is placed in front of the gunner, just above the control handle. And finally the emergency system for the turret operation needed to be changed. While previous Leopard 2 versions were using hydraulic liquid from an emergency circuit to power turret and main gun in case of an outage of the normal turret drive, the A5 is doing that now electrically. An emergency circuit is available to connect the batteries in the hull with the turret drives. The gunner is not using the normal control handle, but a small joystick, which is placed to the right of the handle. The emergency mode would only cover an outage of the fire control system. If the tank has penetration of the hull, which leads to an outage of the electrical system, the turret would be also completely dead.
Eventhough the weakness of the emergency drive, the usage of the E-WNA has to be seen as the most important improvement of the Leopard 2A5.
Second major change in the FCS is the usage of the new PERI-R17 A2 commander’s sight. It is based on the PERI-R17, but contains now also thermal sight. This finally enables the commander to identify and attack targets under different visual conditions, day or night. As the outer part of the PERI is much larger than it was in the previous version, a mounting in front of the commander’s hatch would hinder his normal vision. Therefore the sight was moved on the turret rear, right behind the commander’s hatch. The move also required changes of the controls inside the tank. The eyepiece is now placed left of the commander and not anymore to his right. A longer optical pipe connects the sight with the eyepiece. It is still only monocular and displays only the day channel. The magnification is 2x or 8x.
To the right of the eyepiece is the control panel of the thermal sight, which is called TIM (Thermal Imaging Module). The image is displayed on a small monitor only. The commander can adjust polarity, contrast and brightness. The magnification of the TIM is 6x or 12x.
The gunner is still using the EMES15, but the outer components are now placed on top of the turret and not anymore inside the turret front. The performance did not change, only the parameters available in the FCS needed to be adjusted. A small change for the gunner is the possibility to select the first echo of the laser range finder.
Because of the additional armour modules on the turret front, the other components of the FERO-Z18 were moved on top of the gun mantlet, where they are clearly visible under the large housing. The new position of the FERO had a negative impact on the usage of the sight as well. Usually, the auxiliary sight was mounted axis-parallel to the main gun. When driving in hull down positions or using the reverse slope of a hill as position, the gunner could always use the sight and check if he has a clear field of view or if there are any obstacles in sight. This would also mean obstacles for the main gun. This is now not possible anymore.
The armament of the Leopard 2A5 is identical to the previous versions. The tank is using the 120mm L44 smoothbore gun and 2 MG3. Only change was the replacement of the guns recoil brakes with a more powerful model. The trunnion bearing was also slightly modified.
Both changes prepare the conversion the L55 gun and allow the usage of the new DM53 ammunition. Compared to the DM33, the new APFSDS round shows up to 60% higher penetration.
As the commander’s sight was moved to the turret rear, the mounted AA-MG can hinder the vision of the commander. Therefore it is now possible to transport the weapon, if not needed, in a room in the right turret rear. Previous versions had the HKV in that area, which is no longer available.
The crew of the Leopard 2A5 consists of commander, gunner, loader and driver. All perform the same tasks as they did with previous Leopard 2 versions, only the individual stations got slightly modified.
Most important change for the driver is the usage of the new sliding hatch, which is also using a new opening mechanism. To the left of the driver is a control panel with display for the reverse camera.
The periscopes in and beside the driver’s hatch were replaced by newly developed sights. Previous versions used bulky sights, enabling driver’s vision thru two prisms. Starting with version A5, the periscopes contain of outer housing with one prism. From the outside, it nearly looks equal to the old version. Inside the vehicle, the sight only consists of a small mirror, which the driver can adjust to his needs. Reasons for the change were size and weight of the old sight, which could insure the driver. The new design is also smaller and easier to handle. The center sight can be replaced by an image intensifyer night sight.
Because of the use of the new E-WNA, there are several smaller changes to the gunner’s station as well. The hand wheels for the emergency turret drive have been replaced by a small joystick. Same goes for the opening mechanism for the gunner’s sight housing.
Most changes have been made to the commander’s station. A large, semipermiable periscope is mounted in front of the hatch, which allows easier observation of the area in front of the tank. The eyepiece of the PERI-R17 A2 has been to the left side of the commander and there is also a display for the build in thermal sight available. For the first time in a German MBT, The A5 is also equipped with a simply navigation system. It is using GPS to display the current position of the vehicle. There is no display with map information. It only has a control panel in front of the commander, which is capable of displaying current position and save waypoints for a route. An antenna for receiving GPS signals is placed on the right turret rear, just besides the antenna mount.
The changes for the loader are only very small. Because if the electric turret drive, there is simply more storage space available. The naming for the switch on the loader’s control panel is renamed from turret hydraulics to E-WNA. The functionality is the same.
The improvement of the protection level for the crew was one main goal of the Leopard 2A5 development. Most visible changes are the additional armour modules on the turret front. Each side of the turret front mounts one module and an additional one protects the gun mantlet. The modules on the turret front consist of several layers of sloped steel plates and form a hollow space. This special design answers several threats of modern rounds. Because of the sloped form, many of the impacting rounds will simply ricochet, as the angle of impact is very low. If the penetration is successful, the penetrator will have to travel a long way thru the armour.
The huge dimension of the armour is detonating hollow charge rounds in a larger distance to the base armour. The formed jet will have to travel a longer distance and pass thru layers of steel and the hollow space. The steel layers will influence the jet creation, while he space will allow it to widen its diameter. When it finally hits the base armour of the tank, it does not have anymore the form, resulting in a decreased penetration power. The principle of the armour is the cooperation of different materials and long travel distance, which is outmatching the penetration potential of most rounds. Kinetic rounds are penetrated differently. When penetrating, the resulting energy will force the armour plates to move. As the plates are made of different materials, which can’t be displayed with the same speed, the movements within the armour will be of different speed. This will result in a significant lateral strain on the penetrator, which is resulting in high stress and wear. In an ideal scenario, this could also result in a fracture of the penetrator. Most likely the penetrator is slowed down and damaged, before it is hitting the base armour.
Additional armour modules are added to the frontal turret sides, but they have a less complex structure. They consist of hardened steel and also form a small hollow space.
All modules are mounted to the base armour using screws or bolts, which allow easy removal and replacement. The modules on the turret sides can be slewed to the front, as they have to be opened for maintenance or repair works. To access the engine, the turret has to be traversed to 0300 or 0900 position. Then the turret side and the engine cover are aligned and the later one can be opened. The additional armour modules prevent this, which is why they have to be removed. At the same time, the hollow space behind the armour can be used to store personal equipment.
Together with the mounting of the additional turret front armour, the housing of the gunner’s sight was moved to the turret top. The resulting hollow space was closed by redesigning the base armour. Both sides of the turret front were then equipped with new modular armour modules, replacing the old spaced ones.
Originally it was also planned to equip the turret roof with special anti-bomblet armour and use new sliding hatches for commander and loader. Due to financial constraints, both changes were canceled. Instead, additional armour was only added in front of the loader’s hatch. And the turret roof was equipped with an anti-slip layer.
The inner walls of the turret are covered by a so called spall liner. It is soft core armour based on Kevlar materials. It is supposed to stop splitters, spalls or ablation in case of hits or penetrations, which could damage or harm crew and equipment. And even the hull received some protection related changes. The hull front contains now the new hatch for the driver. It slides open, is larger and offers better protection against incoming rounds. The driver’s periscopes were replaced by a new prism/mirror system. The periscopes were quite heavy and could fall inside the vehicle in case of damage, insuring the driver.
The light side skirts were replaced by new ones made of hardened steel. The same were already used by the last lot of Leopard 2A4. A final change was done to the road wheels. The caps, normally made of aluminum, were replaced by steel ones. Personally, I can’t really follow the practical benefit of that change.
The means of communication of the Leopard 2 were nearly not changed. The tank is using SEM 80/90 radio sets and the crew is equipped with the same headsets. Only visible change is the move of the tank-tank connector further down on the left turret rear, which allows easier access.
The major parameters of the Leopard 2A5 are identical to the one recorded with the previous versions. The propulsion system is powerful enough to cope with the additional weight without issues or slower acceleration. The max speed is limited by the max rotation of the engine and is therefore also identical.
But there are also areas which have been impacted. First of all the centre of gravity was impacted by the additional armour at the turret front and the removal of the hydraulic system from the turret rear. The centre of gravity was originally slightly behind the turret and now it is cantered. This is resulting in a different behaviour of the tank when going thru rough terrain. The front is moving down faster and lower than it was before. This effect is partially answered by changes to the torsion bars, but it is not solved.
The Leopard 2A5 does not come with a sealing in the turret ring anymore, but it can still cross waters. The preparation tasks and parameters did not change.
The SVT (Systemversuchsträger – System Test Rig) was used as test vehicle for the first stage of the Leopard 2 combat improvement program. Aim of that stage was the improvement of the tank’s firepower, to compensate the latest developments related to active and reactive armour.
The project was started with a concentration on the development of a new improved kinetic energy round for the 120mm smoothbore gun. The project was done together with France and finally resulted in the LKR I round, which was fielded in France for the MBT Leclerc. Germany designated the new round DM43, but it was never fielded. Main reason was that the performance improvements of the new round could not keep up with the constantly increased requirements.
To achieve the required performance, the 120mm weapon system was being reviewed as a whole and the focus was not anymore only on a new round.
Still, a new ammunition was being developed under the designation LKE II and based on the results of the DM43. To achieve a higher penetration, the focus of the development was set on the penetrator weight and speed. The result was a fully redesigned penetrator, longer and thinner than its predecessors. The propulsion was also changed; it received a new composition and powder geometry. The result was the new DM53 round; the most powerful APFSDS round available for the Leopard 2 at the moment. To handle the higher power of the rounds propulsion, changes had to be done to the 120mm weapon as well. They are mainly related to new recoil brakes, which were introduced with the Leopard 2A5. Therefore the A5 was the first version able to use the DM53. In theory it would also be possible to use the round with older versions of the Leopard 2, but there is a certain risk of damages to main gun and turret.
To use the full potential of the new ammunition, the main gun itself was also improved. The result was an extension of the barrel by 130cm. This small change increased the muzzle velocity by 80m/s, compared to the shorter 120mm barrel. The new weapon was fielded as L/55. The combination of L/55 and DM53 can result in a penetration improvement of up to 80%, compared to the DM33 fired from an L/44 gun, depending on target and distance.
The SVT was based on a Leopard 2A4. It was equipped with the new gun and used for field trials only.
First Appearance: 2001
The L/55 was fielded to the Bundeswehr with the Leopard 2A6. The vehicles were created by refitting existing A5 with the new weapon plus necessary changes to the FCS.
The Leopard 2A6 shows clearly boon and bane of the new powerful armour. The new gun has significantly higher penetration performance, is more accurate and allows larger distances to the target. But unfortunately it again influences the centre of gravity if the tank and moves it further to the front. The mobility is also impacted, as longer gun means larger turning circle. This is especially hindering when operating within forests or urban areas.
It also needs to be mentioned that the new gun is still used with the old EMES15 sight. This gives a tank which could have an optimal combat range of 4.000m. But because of the low magnification of the day sight and bad resolution of the thermal sight, this is not realistic. The laser circle in the center of the sight is, when aiming on targets at distances beyond 2.500m, larger than the turret of the targeted tank.
First Appearance: 2001
A few of the Leopard 2A6 were converted to command vehicles. These tanks are assigned to battalion commanders only.
Main difference to the normal A6 is the usage of the SEM93 radio in combination with an SEM90. The radio sets are mounted side by side in the turret rear with the SEM93 left and the SEM90 right. This is mainly due to the size of the SEM93.
A remote station for the radio is mounted on the loader's station. As he would spend more time operating the radio and navigating, the sat has been modified is is slightly more comfortable.
When producing the Leopard 2A5, also 350 so called mixed lot vehicles were created. These vehicles were made of hulls of lots 1-4 and turrets of lots 6-8. The tanks were thoroughly checked and handed back to the active tank units. Still, because of the high mileage of the old hulls, the tanks had massive problems and outages.
This stage of the Leopard 2 combat improvement was discussed during early/middle 1990s, but was stopped due to financial concerns. Target was the further improvement of firepower, survivability and command. Most important change was the development of a new turret including a 140mm smoothbore weapon system and an automatic loader. This would have resulted in the reduction of the crew size to 3 soldiers. Setup would be similar to the current one, but without the loader. EMES 15, FERO-Z18 and PERI-R17 were still used.
The project came up with several designs. The final one contained a lateral loading mechanism and had the main gun moved in the left turret side. Ammunition load for the main gun was 32 rounds, which were stored in a large ammunition bunker, covering the full turret rear. Moving the ammunition out of the crew’s compartment would have resulted in a higher survivability in case of a penetrating hit. A protection level equal to the Leopard 2A5 or better was planed.
Command and control of the tank was supposed to be improved by the introduction of the ISIS system in its latest version.
The project was stopped even before prototypes could have been produced
First Appearance: 2004
The peace keeping missions on the Balkans quickly discovered the weak mine protection of the used Leopard 2A5 and A6. Therefore Germany started the development of an improvement package, which was also supposed to be used by Switzerland, the Netherlands Sweden and Norway. The German Leopard reequipped were later designated Leopard 2A6M.
Two modifications were done to the hull of the tanks. A large steel plate is mounted below the frontal half of the hull, adding the additional mine protection. It is also adding a total of 3t f extra weight, which is impacting the overall mobility of the vehicle. The change also affects the emergency exit underneath the driver. The hatch weights a few hundred kilo and is not to be used as armour protection anymore. It also requires a special winch during training to get it back in place.
Another change was done on the driver’s station. The usual seat was completely removed and replaced by a new design. The driver is now “wearing” a parachute harness like “Dynamic Safety Seat”. The driver is always wearing the harness. When entering the vehicle, he is first sitting on a large rubber cube, which ensures that he has some distance from the hull floor. And then the driver is fastening his seat to five bolts on the hull top (three to the right and two to the left). In this arrangement, the driver is fully decoupled from the hull and is also most likely out of the blast area of detonating mines. A similar system is also used by Russian tanks, where a normal driver’s seat is bolded to the hull top. But such a design does not allow a fast evacuating of the driver in case of an emergency.
The Leopard 2A6M is also equipped with a new smoke grenade system. The individual launchers are aligned differently. It is now only possible to fire fans of four grenades.
The Leopard 2A6 has a reduced ammunition load. In order to protect the hull storage from mine shocks, the lowest level of main gun round storage was removed, which means the A6M can carry 5 rounds less than other Leopard 2 versions.
First Appearance: 2016
Just an upgraded A6 using ultra caps.
First Appearance: 2016
The Leopard 2A6M+ is currently being fielded with the Bundeswehr. The version is an upgrade for existing A6 and A6M. All current tanks are upgraded as part of ongoing debot maintenance. Once all vehicles have been converted, designation will be changed back to Leopard 2A6M.
Main goals are the standardization of the available Leopard 2 tanks and improved capabilities of the vehicle. The tanks are supposed to be as close to the A7 as possible, but at significantly decreased costs.
The most visible change is the usage of the SOTAS-IT based intercom system. All crew stations have new control boxes, which allow digital voice and data communication. It is possible to configure direct communication subnets between crewmembers. An external communication box at the hull rear contains network connectors to link other tanks, as well as intercom connectors to enable communication with supporting infantry units. Part of the new intercom system is the usage of new helmets with integrated headsets. These are known from Puma already and unfortunately don’t fully meet the requirements of tank crews. Noise cancellation is one of the key features, which blocks sounds from the tank and it’s operation from interfering with the crew communication. Unfortunately, the microphone used is voice activated and can’t be set manually to on/off. The bulky design of the new helmets also doesn’t work well with the gunner’s headrest, they are simply way to wide.
In order to improve night fighting capabilities the tank is equipped with the new PERI R17 A3. Main improvement over the A2 version is the usage of the new ATTICA thermal sight. There are no external changes to the sight, even the TIM control panel for the commander is unchanged. Besides significantly improved image quality, the sight also allows homogenizing of the image brightness and contrast. As a result, images with very bright or dark areas are displayed correctly and targets can be identified easier in those areas. Thermal sight for the gunner was not changed.
Another very massive improvement is the partial digitalizing of the fire control system. This can seen on the new power hub behind the commander, but also the commander’s system control unit, which is borrowed from the A7. It is using a black/yellow flat screen to display fire control related information. It doesn’t use a touch screen, menu selection and scrolling is done using buttons around the display, as well as turn switches at the bottom. The new panel replaces nearly all control units mounted on the commander’s station including self test, navigation, peri control and EMES thermal control. Centralizing nearly all controls in one unit leaves the commander’s station very clean with focus on TIM and FCS.
A new control unit can be found behind the commander, used for Ultracap. The system basically consists of a capacitor mounted in the right turret rear with the power electronics. It is used to cover voltage peaks during turret start up and operation. The power cap is charged using electric power from the hull generator. But it also receives energy generated using recuperation in the turret drive. In case of total power outage, Ultracap allows clear shutdown of the turret electronics. It can also supply power to the turret emergency drive and the smoke grenade launchers.
The leopard 2A6M+ is already prepared for the usage of the new DM11 HE-FRAG round. Connectors for the new control unit are available at the gunner’s control handle. The loader also received a new control panel, which allows the selection of a larger range of ammunition types. Configuration is being shown on a small display. Toggle and turn switches for eWNA, loading position, fan, fire and secure have been moved to the right side, while ammunition selection is on the left side of the control unit. The upgrade to the plus version finally also puts fire protection back into focus. The fire extinguishing system for the engine compartment has been redesigned and is now operated using the new DeuGen N extinguishing agent, which is more powerful compared to the so far used nitrogen. A similar upgrade has also been installed for the fire suppression system in fighting compartment. The new tank comes also with a number of small improvements for the crew, like additional steps inside to simplify entering and leaving the tank.
Externally, there are two modifications that help identify the Leopard 2A6M+. The first is the communication box at the hull rear, which required a redesign of the towing cable mounts. The cables are not crossing anymore at the hull rear. A second modification can be found on top of the turret right side. Additional armour is protecting the electronics room and the hatch to store the AA-MG is no longer present. The MG has to be stored inside the turret at the loader’s station now.
First Appearance: 2000
The Leopard 2A6EX was originally developed by KMWeg to showcase available technologies and combine them in one vehicle. The vehicle was used for shows and trials for possible customers like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and several Arabic states.
As the tank was meant for active marketing, most modern technologies were used if possible. The most obvious difference to the Leopard A6 is the new designed hull front, as well as the additional bomblett protection on the turret roof. An air condition is mounted on the turret rear right, replacing the storage box.
An improved navigation system, with displays for commander and driver is available. It displays digital maps and allows the setting of routes. There are no changes to the fire control system, the controls are equal to the previous versions.
The right side of the hull rear was modified and contains now an auxiliary power unit. The new Euro-Power-Pack was not installed.
First Appearance: 2006
Based on the experiences with the recent usage of main battle tanks in different local conflicts, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann developed the Leopard 2 PSO (Peace Support Operation). It basically consists of a Leopard 2, which was improved in the areas survivability and sensor systems. Rather than preparing a vehicle ready for production, the project was aiming at showing different available technologies. The improvements of the vehicle consist of modular packages, which can be added to existing vehicles as needed.
While MBTs where originally designed to lead the fight on medium and large ranges, today’s conflicts require a certain level of fire support for the infantry, even in urban areas. The usually resulting misuse of MBTs is mainly based on the unavailability of special support vehicles (e.g. the Russian BMPT) and not in the capabilities of modern tanks. Nevertheless, MBTs are currently the most powerful weapon available for direct ground support. And that’s where KMWeg brings the Leopard 2 PSO into picture.
The only prototype shown in public is based on a normal Leopard 2A5, but was significantly improved. The version A5 was selected, as it is using the shorter L44 barrel. This allows higher mobility, especially in urban areas. The elevation level of the gun was not changed.
Most visible differences to other Leopard 2 versions are the additional armour modules on hull and turret. They are supposed to ensure a 360deg protection against simple shaped charge warheads (up to RPG-7). Unlike other tanks, the PSO is not relying on simple bar armour, but heavy modular one. The vehicle’s top was not enforced, but the vehicle is equipped with the additional mine protection, known from the Leopard 2A6M.
A hydraulically operated dozer blade is mounted at the hull front. It is used to clear obstacles and setup hull down positions. It also boosts the protection of the hull against all types of incoming rounds and mines.
All means to improve the passive protection of the tank have resulted in a significant increase of the vehicle weight. It can also be assumed, that the center of gravity was once again moved towards the vehicle front.
To improve mobility and to cope with the additional weight, the Leopard 2 PSO also received some changes regarding to running gear and propulsion. As a vehicle with MLC70 has a high wear of tracks and drive sprockets, the tank is now equipped with the modern type 570 PO tracks and a hydraulic track tensioning system. With the 570 PO, the sprockets connect to the track bodies and not to the final connectors, allowing higher forces paired with less mechanical wear.
The hull rear mounts the usual Leopard 2 propulsion system. On customer request it could be replaced by a new euro-power-pack version. As it is using less space, an additional fuel cell with up to 400l capacity could be added. This would be, especially when looking at the vehicle weight, but also the expected mission time, more than just appropriate. In addition, the tank can also be equipped with an auxiliary power unit.
Another important change of the Leopard 2 PSO is the enhanced sensor suite. The tank is equipped with several cameras, which allow the crew to observe the direct surrounding of the vehicle without dismounting. Driver is equipped with a high resolution camera on the rear and a night vision one on the hill front. Commander’s and gunner’s sights were not improved, only heavier armoured. The tank is also equipped with a search light on the turret front, as it is used with the Leopard 2A5DK. At the inside, the tank was improved by using a fully digitized fire control system and a command and control system. The later one includes a navigation system with maps and the capability of exchanging data between units. The PSO also mounts a mission recorder, which logs actions and taken, as well as movements of the tank. Combat compartment and electrics and now chilled by an air condition system.
The vehicle’s configuration is rounded off by a new weapon station on the turret roof behind the loader’s hatch, replacing the normal AA-MG. It contains an automatic weapon, as well as day and thermal channel, allowing the usage during day and night. The weapon station is controlled by the loader from within the vehicle, there is no need to dismount of stand within the open hath. As a downside, the weapon station is increasing the vehicle height and it also has a negative impact on the commander’s field of view.
The Leopard 2 PSO shows some possibilities of configuring a Leopard 2 for usage in urban areas. The tank received improved sensors and armour. At the same time, the vehicle became even larger, which also means easier to identify and to hit. Potential customers should think twice if it would not be possible to get the same improvement also with less effort. Or if it would not be a better way to develop a vehicle which is made for the tasks ahead.
First Appearance: 2014
TThe Leopard 2A7 is the latest addition to the German Army inventory and will be the standard version for the Leopard 2 in the next years. The tanks are not new, they are upgraded Leopard 2. The first lot was taken from former Dutch Army Leopard 2A6. This rather strange arrangement happened, as Germany rented out 20 Leopard 2A6M to Canada back in 2007. Instead of giving back the tanks and replace them with new ones, Canada bought 20 used Leopard 2A6NL and handed them to Germany. These tanks have been reworked to A6M standard and now further to A7. The tanks have been handed over in late 2014 and early 2015. 19 of the Leopard 2A7 will be used for the Army, one will be used for further upgrades and evaluations.
In addition to the 20 vehicles, German MoD decided to upgrade all active Leopard 2 to A7 and add another 103 tanks. Of those, 44 would be handed over to active battalions, 56 would stay at training areas and schools and 8 are to be used for further evaluation. All of those will be A7, bringing the total up to 328.
The Leopard 2A7 introduces a couple of new systems, some of them are pretty unique. The first change to the tank is the adjustment to the Leopard 2A6M standard. This includes the replacement of the older smoke grenade launchers, the update of the radio systems, the new driver’s seat, the under belly armour and the translation of all labels.
Most important change with the Leopard 2A7 is the usage of IFIS (Integriertes Führungs- und Informationssystem – Integrated Command and Information System). The system allows the digital communication between tanks within a unit. It also enables situation awareness within the tank and the display of tactical and routing information on a map. IFIS will come in two flavours. The full version is for company and platoon leaders, as well as deputies. As these tanks are having a higher command responsibility, commander, loader and driver are equipped with digital displays. For commander and driver, the displays replace the normal control panels. The displays are large colour screens, allowing the display of tank status, maps or messages. None of the stations is equipped with a proper keyboard. The IFIS version for other platoon members covers the displays for driver and commander only. Looking at the commercial prices of comparable IT systems, this configuration is not reasonable.
As IFIS enables digital data transmissions, the Leopard 2A7 will be equipped with three radio sets, one for data only. The old antennas will be replaced with modern Comrod ones.
The A7 is using the new SOTAS-IP intercom system. It is used for the communication within the tank. But is also offers a communication interface at the rear of the tank to establish connection to supporting infantry. The external interface allows voice and data communication. Similar system is being used for Puma and Boxer as well.
While the PERI R17 A2 was just introduced with the Leopard 2A5, the A7 receives already a new version. It is called PERI R17 A3 and contains a brand new ATTICA thermal sight. It offers higher resolution and detection range.
Unfortunately, the thermal sight of the gunner was not improved. While the commander’s sight is fully digital and modular. The gunner’s sight still uses a CRT monitor to display the image. Changing the thermal sight would require a complete redesign of the sight. This would be the chance to get rid of some old designs and enable new functionalities. But the price tag attached seems to be too high. Too bad.
A very important, but small improvement of the tank is the usage of the new secondary ammunition. The old multi purpose ammunition will not be available in the future anymore. The new option is the DM11 HE round, which can be pre-programmed. The loader has an additional control box, which allows setting the fuse. Three detonation modes are possible: Point Detonation, Point Detonation with Delay and AirBurst. Programming the fuse is done automatically within the chamber. Max range of the ammunition is 5.000m. But without an improved fire control system, the Leopard 2 will only be able to use the round in direct mode up to 4.000m.
Leopard 2A7 will be the first tank using this new HE rounds. With the DM12 going out of stock, it is expected that the Leopard 2A6 and A6M will be equipped with the new round sooner or later as well.
The Leopard 2A7 finally also introduces air condition and APU to the German Army. The APU is mounted in the right hull rear, while the air condition system is in the turret bustle. The APU enables operation of all tank systems without the main engine running, including turret drive, sights, stabilization and air condition.
Armament of the Leopard 2A7 has not been improved further. But the tank can now be equipped with the Barracuda camouflage system.
First Appearance: 2017
The next german army version.
First Appearance: 2008
The Leopard 2A4 Evolution was developed by IBD. It basically contains various means to improve the active and passive protection of the Leopard 2A4. Main goal was the usage of available technology, which would minimize the development and procurement costs.
The tank is based on the normal Leopard 2A4, but received noticeable enhancements of the armour. Different modules are used for hull and turret front/sides. In addition, the tank received extra mine protection below the hull and bomblet protection on the turret roof. The hull sides and rear are equipped with slat armour, which is supposed to detonate incoming rounds before they hit the base armour. Finally, the tank is also equipped with the AMAP-ADS system. It detects incoming rounds and ties to intercept them before the actual impact.
The Leopard 2A4 Evolution is a very interesting concept, delivering a boost in protection at minimal cost. This also means that the tanks can be improved in a short time and to a level needed. The weight of the full package is given with just below 5t, the turret ones will add an additional 2 or 3. As the majority of the weight is added at the vehicle front, the center of gravity is affected. The tank does neither receive an upgrade to the suspension, nor the power pack. This will result in higher wear and tear and decreased mobility. As the focus of the development was purely on improving protection, one should ask why the gunner's sight was not moved. It is still at the same position, forming a nice ballistic hole in the turret front.
In general, improving the tanks protection is a nice thing. But one needs to think if the Leopard 2 is then the right vehicle. If the tank is used in a scenario where only maximum protection will help, I would rather look for alternatives.
First Appearance: 2008
The MBT Revolution is an upgrade package currently offered by Rheinmetall Defence for the Leopard 2. It looks similar as the Leopard 2A4 Evolution, because it is using the same set of ballistic protection. But the options go beyond that. The MBT Revolution is equipped with ROSY (Rapid Obscuring System). It consists of four grenade launchers, placed on each corner of the tanks's turret. The system is equipped with laser detectors and able to lay large or small smoke screens in an extremely short timeframe. It can either be activated automatically when an incoming ranging or guiding signal is detected or controlled by the crew. ROSY is capable is producing smoke close to the vehicle and continue to extend the smoke screen while the tank is driving.
More changes can be found inside the tank. Rheinmetall is offering a complete reworked interior including electric turret drive and fully digitalised fire control system. Customers can chose to reuse existing sights and controls or replace them by new models. The later one is highly recommended. Digital turret electronics also allow the introduction of a new battlefield management system, including wireless data communication.
A new feature, so far only discussed for the M1A2 SEP, is the usage of the tank for actual training. The MBT Revolution allows the tank to be part of training units, where targets and target information can be displayed in the sights (augmented reality). This would allow the tank crews to be trained on their actual equipment and not have the need to use simulators that much anymore. Training missions can run on static display or even dynamically on a training ground.
The commander of the MBT Revolution is equipped with a new sight called SEOSS (Stabilized Electro-Optical Sight System). It is fully stabilized, holds day channel and Saphir thermal imaging sight. The sight is providing digital output of all sensors and can be connected to the tanks digital systems. One of the interesting features of SEOSS is the integrated fire control system. It allows full control of either turret main armament or remote weapon station. In theory this setup would even allow in the future to use weapon systems which are not directly connected to the tank.
The sensor pack is completed the so called situation awareness system. It consists of several day and night sight cameras, placed around the tank. They offer 360° visibility of the tanks near surrounding.
As mentioned, the tank is also equipped with a remote weapon station, placed on the turret top. It is controlled by the commander and can hold various machine weapons.
Other equipment introduced are an air conditioning system for the crew, as well as an auxiliary power unit.
The MBT Revolution is the most important version of the Leopard 2 at the moment. I would still question the need of the additional armour, as it brings the same downsides as described for the Leopard 2A2 Evolution. The big argument is the digital turret and the new sight for the commander. Both adding a true value to the daily usage of the tank. APU and AC are nice as well :-) So far no customer signed up or the upgrades. Besides the additional armour, the MBT Revolution is the Leopard 2 version I was always dreaming about. Can I please have one?
First Appearance: 2014
The MBT Evolution is just another step in the line of Leopard 2A4 Evolution and MBT Revolution. While the first one demonstrated the new armour package and the second one introduced the new fire control system for the commander, MBT Evolution aims now for the practical demonstration of the armour package. The tank was presented at the Eurosatory 2014 and covers add on armour, as well as ROSY demonstrators.
Country: Greece / Germany
A total of 183 used Leopard 2A4 have been ordered by Greece in 2005. All vehicles were checked and repainted in the Hellenic cammo before they were handed over. There were no additional changes in the configuration of the tanks.
First Appearance: 2006
Country: Greece / Germany
IIn early 2002, the Leopard 2 was declared as new MBT for the Helenic Army. A total of 170 vehicles were ordered, which should be produced mainly in Greece. An additional vehicle was ordered for live firing tests.
Hull and turret and produced in Greece. While manufacturing, the layout of the armour was optimized, resulting in a protection level comparable to Strv 122 or Leopard 2E. The live firing revealed some weak points in the armour, which could be closed.
The tank is based on the Leopard 2A6, but got improved in major aspects. The hull received additional armour at the front, equal to the ones used in Spain and Sweden. Additional plates are also placed on top of the hull front. Improved armour packages can be found also on the hull sides. The modules protecting the idler wheel are strengthened and contain spaced armour at the front. Side skirts are the same as used with the Leopard 2A6.
The propulsion of the Leopard 2HEL consists of the known combination of MB873 Ka-501 engine and HSWL354 transmission. The usage of the modern euro-power-pack had been considered, but didn’t materialize for cost reasons. As Greece is also using the Leopard 2A4, this decision makes absolutely sense. The hull rear got changed maintenance hatches, which also moves the guiding cross slightly left. A camera for the driver is mounted on top of the hull rear. It’s an improved model, which also comes with sun filters. A reversing aid, which indicates the hull rear, is not available. The right side of the hull rear was heavily modified and is higher than usual. It contains an auxiliary power unit, which can be accessed thru a hatch in the hull side. It is used to produce electric energy for the tank’s systems in case the main engine is nit running. It replaces the usual storage boxes in the right hull side. The connector for slave starting the tank is still available and accessible thru a small hatch.
The turret of the tank is clearly identified as A6 family, as it comes with the wedge armour and the L55 main gun. In addition, a new bomblet protection is placed on the turret roof, including sliding hatches for commander and loader. Additional armour has also been mounted on the PERI-R17A2. The sight is now protected with an eclectically operated shield. It is mounted on a massive swivel arm and is supposed to protect the sight from splitters. Additional armour modules are also mounted around the sight. The Leopard 2HEL is using the same fire control system as the Leopard 2A6, but it got slightly improved. The gunner’s main sight is now using a modern thermal sight of the Ophelios-P class. In addition, the tank is mounting a cross wind sensor on the turret rear. A similar installation was available with the first version of the Leopard 2 already, but got removed. The Leopard 2 HEL is now the only version of the Leopard 2 that is using such a sensor.
The tank is also equipped with the INIOCHOS BMS. It allows the displaying of tactical information and digital data exchange between different units. The commander received a display, which either shows vehicle information or tactical data on a map. He is able to enter and send data using a small keyboard. Another display is available for the driver, used to set and display waypoints.
The communication means of the Leopard 2 HEL are state of the art. On board communication is ensured by a digital WISPR system. It allows encrypted voice communication within the crew, but also around the vehicle. The system is not cable bound, but uses WLAN for the communication. It is a feature that no other Leopard 2 is currently using, but it is offered as an update package. WISPR is in principle also able to do data exchange between vehicles. The communication suite is completed by two TRC-9200 radio sets, mounted behind the commander’s station. They allow the encrypted communication using voice and data. They are also used to submit and receive INICHOS data.
Another important improvement of the Leopard 2HEL can be found in the right turret rear. To cool down crew and electronics, an electrically operated air conditioning system is mounted. As the unit was replacing storage boxes, new baskets are mounted on both sides of the turret. They are only available with the Leopard 2HEL.
Another way to recognize this version of the Leopard 2 is the smoke grenade launchers. It is the same version used for the Leopard 2A6M and Leopard 2E. The system allows control of individual launchers from a control panel at the commander’s station.
First Appearance: 1982
Country: Netherlands / Germany
The Netherlands were the first export customer for the Leopard 2 and the related contract was already signed in March 1979. The first four vehicles were delivered in July 1982, but the mass deliveries started only one year later. Within three years, a total of 445 tanks were delivered.
The Netherlands more or less followed the respective configuration available in Germany, which resulted in the delivery of vehicles in version A1, A3 and even A4. In parallel with the delivery of the new versions, older vehicles received an update.
The Leopard 2NL differs from the German version in some major aspects. The most visible difference is the six smoke grenade launchers on each side of the turret. The tanks are also using 7.62mm FN MAG machine guns instead of the MG3. And finally, there are Dutch radio sets and night vision sights for the driver used. The rest of the configuration is similar to the German tanks.
Since the end of the 1990s, the Royal Netherlands Army is reducing its numbers of Leopard 2. A total of 115 vehicles were sold to Austria, 52 to Norway and in 2008 another 80 tanks to Canada. The rest of the vehicles received upgrades to later versions, which is why the original Leopard 2NL is not in use anymore.
Country: Netherlands / Germany
The Leopard 2NL Demonstrator was used to support public relations works. It basically consists of a Leopard 2 hull. Instead of the turret, seats were placed inside the hull, used to transport visitors. Compared to the Leopard 2NL, the new vehicle lost 16t of weight, which must have a good impact on the overall mobility.
First Appearance: 1996
Country: Netherland / Germany
In 1993, the Netherlands agreed on the combat improvement of a total of 330 available Leopard 2NL. The upgrade level is equal to the German A5, but with the exception of the previously mentioned equipment. In addition, the tanks did not receive new side skirts.
Due to budget cuts, only 188 vehicles have been converted. All of them are now moved to version A6 already. The other older tanks have been sold.
First Appearance: 2001
Country: Netherland / Germany
The Royal Netherlands Army was also agreeing on the usage of the more powerful L55 weapon system. The tanks equipped with it are designated Leopard 2A6NL. All 188 Leopard 2A5NL were converted. Of these, 38 were later sold to Portugal and another 20 to Canada. As of 2011, the Dutch Army has retired all of its Leopard 2 tanks. The vehicles are stored and offered for export.
First Appearance: 1987
Country: Switzerland / Germany
During the 1970s, Switzerland started to search for a replacement of the old Centurion and Pz. 61 tanks. The project was called “Neuer Kampfpanzer (NKPz)” and aimed for the design and development of an indigenous vehicle. The result of the early phases of the project was, that the costs for each vehicle, based on the expected low numbers to be procured, would have been extremely high. Moreover, there were certain risks in the project, especially around the availability and reliability of needed technologies. All this caused a cancellation of the development project in 1979. As an alternative, the Swiss Army started evaluating other vehicles available on the market, which should be either procured or license produced. The later one was favoured, also to give some sort of compensation to the Swiss industry for the loss of business resulting from the cancellation of the NKPz program. Finally, two tanks were selected for a closer evaluation, the Leopard 2 and the M1 Abrams. In the years 1981 and 1982, two vehicles of each type were undertaken comprehensive tests. In august 1983, the final decision for the procurement of 380 Leopard 2 was made. The first 35 vehicles were delivered for troop usage between March and June 1987, which also caused the naming as Panzer 87. Production of the other 345 vehicles started in December 1987 and was running out in 1993.
The Pz 87 is comparable to the 5th lot of the Leopard 2, which makes the tank similar to the A4. Changes are mainly done to the turret. The storage boxes on the turret rear were redesigned and the left turret side offers a connector to the tank’s intercom system. The turret front of the Pz 87 carries additional snow grousers. Three are placed on the left front and seven on the right one, bringing the total amount of grousers to 28. The right turret side has two mounts for machine gun barrels. The crew can put the used barrels there for cooling. Two 7.5mm MG 87 are used as coax and AA-MG. The later one comes with a special mount at the loader’s hatch.
The only change inside the tank, is the usage of AN/VCR 12 radio sets instead of the German SEM 80/90.
The Pz 87 is the only Leopard 2 version which can be equipped with an insert barrel for the main gun. This is used for trainings and is a low cost methode for doing some basic gunnery with the real tank.
With the fielding of the Pz 87, various complaints of residents neighboring military installations were filed regarding the noise emissions of the tanks. Therefore all Pz 87 were equipped with large mufflers on the hull rear. It is said that the power of the tank is not affected.
The Pz 87 is still in active service with the Swiss Army and a rework of 134 tanks to Pz 87 WE is on the way.
Country: Switzerland / Germany
The Pz 87-140 was a normal Pz 87, equipped with a swiss made 140mm smoothbore gun. The vehicle was used for field trials of the new weapon system.
Two tanks were manufactured. While the first one was using the normal Pz 87 turret, the second one was equipped with additional armour modules on hull and turret as well.
The Pz 87-140 has been a prototype only and was never taken into active service.
Country: Switzerland / Germany
The Pz 87-L55 was a Pz 87, which was equipped with the 120mm L55 smoothbore gun. The tank also received additional turret armour, similar to the one used with early Pz 87WE prototypes. The Pz 87-L55 has been a prototype only, the L55 is not supposed to be used in Switzerland.
First Appearance: 2004
Country: Switzerland / Germany
Switzerland started restructuring programs for its army already in the late 1990s, mainly based on financial restrictions. The result was a decision on the reduction of the active tank units down to only 134 Pz 87. All other Leopard 2 should be either stored, converted or sold.
The vehicles in active duty were supposed to receive an upgrade, enabling the usage within the next upcoming years. KMWeg and Ruag Land Systems developed an upgrade package for the existing tanks, which is about to be fielded.
Goals of the development were set right at the beginning and covered improvements in the areas of protection and command & control. Needed technologies got developed and used in a first prototype.
The hull of the prototype mainly received modifications related to additional protection. Additional armour modules are mounted on top of the hull front, supporting the relatively weak basic armour. The additional mine protection, known from the German Leopard 2A6M, was mounted below the hull. It consists of a large armour plate forming a hollow space, which is placed below the fighting compartment. The driver’s seat is also changed to the new “Dynamic Safety Seat”, where the only contacts with the hull are the pedals. An additional change to driver’s compartment is the use of the now obligatory rear view camera, mounted on the hull rear. It enables the driver to drive backwackwards without the control of the commander.
Much more complex are the changes to the turret. Front and sides were fitted with large modular armour modules, which have been developed in Switzerland. The usage of titanium layers mainly boost the protection level again kinetic energy rounds. It is interesting to see that the wedge type armour, known since the Leopard 2A5 is not used. Instead modules with a thickness of 230mm are used, which keep the design of the turret. But there are up- and downsides of this design as well. The straight form of the modules ensure equal protection levels over the full plane. But unfortunately the gunner’s sight was not moved and is still offering that ballistic whole in the right turret front. The modules on the turret sides nearly cover the full length of the fighting compartment. They can be moved aside, to enable access to the engine when the turret is in 3 or 9 o’clock position.
The additional armour on turret front and sides consist of several modules and can be removed easily. Originally it was planed to procure the modules, but only mount them if needed. To ensure sustainability, all modules can be opened on the bottom and the contained armour material can be replaced, if needed.
Additional armour improvements can also be found on the rear turret roof. The smoke grenade launchers received a new configuration and were protected by a thin metal cover. The turret rear received additional storages boxes for the crew’s equipment.
The Pz 87WE has been equipped with a fully electrical weapon control system, which is limiting the danger for the crew in case of a penetrating hit. It also reduces the energy consumption of the turret and the emission of sound and heat.
The PERI-R17A1 used with the Pz 87 was replaced by a new PERI-R17A2, which is also used with the Leopard 2A5/6. It contains an Ophelios-P based thermal imaging sight, which allows the commander to detect and attach targets by night or under bad weather conditions. The Peri was not moved, it is still mounted on the turret top infront of the commander’s hatch. As the new sight is a bit larger than its predecessor, the commander’s field of view thru the hatch periscopes is slightly impacted in the frontal plane. The sight components inside the turret are arranged similar to the Leopard 2A5. The eyepiece moved to the left of the commander, with the control panel and thermal image display to its right.
One of the most important changes of the new tank is the usage of VIINACCS (Vehicle Integrated Information Navigation Command Control System).It is fielded with the Swiss Army since 2008 and allows digital communication and data exchange between different units. It also enables GPS based communication, using a colored display at the commander’s station. To enable the communication, an additional antenna is mounted on the right turret side. A hull computer and display for the commander are the only two parts inside the tank. The display is replacing the commander’s control panel and the computer test panel. All functions can still be accessed using the VIINACCS panel. To improve the capabilities of the crew to attach close soft targets, a new weapon station was developed, called Autarkes Waffensystem AWS (autark weapon system). It consists of a remotely controlled weapon station, mounting a 12.7mm M2 machine gun (MG64) and replacing the loader’s AA MG. The weapon is fully stabilized and electrically operated. The AWS only comes with a day channel, but a thermal sight can be mounted if needed. Control of the system is given to the loader. On his station, a control panel with display and control stick are mounted. A future development of the AWS contains the usage of two 7.5mm AA MGs. The system is equipped with a sensor based logic, able to detect, classify and attach targets automatically. It is somewhat comparable to the British TAMS. Usage of the AWS requires a change in the loader’s hatch, it is now opening to the front.
One goal of the Pz 87WE development was the reduction of radar, thermal and sound emissions. This was mainly done by changing the configuration of the tank, like the cover of the smoke grenade launchers or the layout of the turret storage boxes. In addition, the tank can be equipped with a new multi-spectral camouflage net. It is reducing the radar reflections and blocks the heat signature. It is mounted on hull and turret. Together with the mufflers, this is making the Pz 87 to one of the hardest detectable battle tanks. The Pz 87WE prototype had a total weight of 61t and showed the true potential of the tank. But unfortunately, the configuration finally selected for service usage is slightly different. Due to cost reasons, the Swiss Army will only receive small parts of the developed technology. Modifications of the armour and the usage of the AWS are not planed anymore. Same goes for the full usage of the VIINACS. The vehicles are only prepared for the system, a few might actually receive it. The others have a new commander’s control panel, but without the map display. Maps can only be displayed on the driver’s screen, which is also used for the rear view camera.
Most important changes are therefore the usage of the PERI-R17A2 and the new electric turret drive.
All together, the Pz 87WE marks a very interesting version of the Leopard 2. It can only be hoped that Switzerland will update the tanks once and use the full configuration. The delivery of the vehicles was planed from 2008. But it was stopped in 2009 because of continuous issues with the electronics.
As a side note, it needs tobe mentioned that the Pz 87WE was considered as new MBT for Australia. It finally lost against the M1A1AIM.
First Appearance: 1994
Country: Sweden / Germany
As part of the procurement of new build Leopard 2, Sweden also received 160 Leopard 2A4. The tanks were fielded as Strv 121. Main goal of this step was the fast supply of tanks, enabling the units to start the training. All tanks were rented from Germany, but with the option of later updates or procurement. The vehicles were from the first production lots, rolled out between 1980 and 1987.
The tanks were just slightly modified. They received a new camouflage painting and the steps on the frontal heavy side skirts got removed. The rear skirts were cut, to ensure easier self cleaning of the drive sprocket. The later two changes were not done on all vehicles.
Budget cuts in 2009 have resulted in a fast retirement of the 160 Strv 121. Sweden did not take the option procuring the tanks, but handed them back to Germany. Currently the tanks are used as base for the Leopard 2A4SG Mk. II.
First Appearance: 1996
Country: Sweden / Germany
S weden was trying quite a while to find a replacement for the older S-tank, the Strv 103. First it was planed to develop and produce a replacement, but the project was dropped due to the high costs. Finally, a requirements catalog was defined and a tank trial was started. This often quoted evaluation took place between Leopard 2, Leclerc and M1 Abrams. Final decision was the procurement of a customized Leopard 2 version based on the A5. This might also be the reason why the tank was originally often called Leopard 2A5S, but its official designation is Strv 122.
Most importantdifference to the German Leopard 2A5 is the fact that the Strv 122 is not a simple combat improvement, but a new build tank. This allows optimization of the vehicle by using modern materials and manufacturing processes.
The Strv 122 is based on the Mannheimer Configuration and focused on maximum protection.
The hull front can be identified by the use of additional armour modules over the full width, as well as the first time usage of square head lights. They are supposed to deliver better vision to the driver and they also look much nicer. Additional changes to the hull are related to the running gear. For security reasons, the Strv 122 is using the stronger torsion bars and shock absorbers of the PzH 2000. The brake system is now using larger disks and the crew’s stations have seat belts.
The propulsion system is equal to other Leopard 2 versions. Only change is a new ventilation system to the engines compartment. Special valves connect the compartment to the ring coolers. If they step into action, air is pumped out, resulting in a small under pressure. Fresh air is now flowing in from the outside, cooling the engine. The result is a significant reduction of the tank’s heat signature, which is especially important as the tank is used in cold Sweden. Another change to the hull is the usage of six 140Ah batteries for the power supply, replacinb the normal 8 ones.
The changes to the turret are mainly indetically to the A5. The known wedge armour is available on turret front and sides. In addition, a bomblet protection is mounted on the turret roof, as well as new sliding hatches for commander and loader.
The PERI-R17A2 is mounted behind the commander’s hatch. It is equipped with an electrically operated armoured shield. It can be flipped in front of the sight in the 6 o’clock position.
An important improvement to the fighting skills of the tank is the usage of the Tank Command and Control System (TCCS). It is delivering information about the tank’s status, as well as tactical details, to commander and driver. The commander can display maps with different resolutions on a display and add tactical information. Data exchange with other vehicles is possible using two additional radio sets. The fire control system of the Strv 122 has been equipped with a new computer core, able to hold ballistic data of up to 12 different types of rounds in parallel. The EMES-15 contains now a more eye friendly Ramashifted laser. The day channel is providing the usual 12x magnification, but in addition also a 3x one with extended field of view.
Main armament of the Strv 122 is the known 120mm L44 smoothbore gun. Ammunition types used are an APFSDS and a HEAT-MP one. Secondary armament consists of a coax- and an AA-MG. In addition, the Strv 122 is using the French “GALAX” system, replacing the normal smoke grenade launcher. Besides smoke grenades, Galax is also capable of delivering explosive or SP rounds.
A total of 122 Strv 122 have been procured for the Swedisch Armed Forces. The first 29 tanks were assembled in Germany, the other 91 in Sweden. Following one of the requirements of the procurement, larger parts of the tanks were also produced in Sweden.
First Appearance: 2004
Country: Sweden / Germany
Sweden has been the second country fielding the additional mine protection for its Leopard 2. Similarly to the Leopard 2A6M, the Strv 122B was equipped with an additional armour layer below the frontal part of the hull, as well as the new driver’s seat.
Originally it was also planed to equip the tank with a new commander’s sight. It was supposed to be mounted on top of a telescopic turret, which was adjustable in height. A prototype tank was modified, but the system was later dropped and not fielded.
First Appearance: 1997
Country: Austria / Netherlands / Germany
Austria bought 115 used Leopard 2A4NL from the Netherlands in 1997. Delivery started in 1998 and is completed. All tanks were originally delivered from 1983 as Leopard 2A3 and later updated. They have seen already quite a service life. Unfortunately, Austria didn’t let KMWeg maintain or check the tanks, they were directly delivered from Dutch depots. The vehicles conditions were accordingly. Moreover, all tanks were delivery with the Dutch configuration including modified smoke grenade launchers, radio sets, night vision equipment and machine guns. Supply of spare parts and training of the crews was also below standards. All had a negative impact on the fielding of the tanks, which was significantly delayed. To solve the configuration, spare parts from Germany and Austria were locally applied, which brought the tanks to a level similar to the german Leopard 2.
Due to cost cuts, 40 tanks were removed from active service in 2006 and finally sold to Germany in 2011.
First Appearance: 1997
Country: Denmark / Germany
Denmark and Germany signed a contract for the delivery of 57 older Leopard 2A4 tanks from Bundeswehr depots in 1997. Delivery was done in 1997 and 1998, where all tanks were taken into active service without any modification. Since 2002, all tanks were updated to the Leopard 2A5DK standard.
First Appearance: 2002
Country: Denmark / Germany
Denmark and Germany signed an additional contract for the upgrade of the existing Leopard 2A4 in the year 2000.
The final configuration is somewhat different than the Leopard 2A5 used in the Bundeswehr. The turret frontal armour has been strengthened and the hull is using modules comparable to the ones on the Strv 122.
The hull rear contains a modified cooling system and an auxiliary power system. The turret is equipped with an air condition system for crew and electronics, as well as a new fire depression system. The air condition required modifications of the turret rear, similar to what has been done to the Leopard 2A6EX. The sides of the turret rear storage boxes and the turret rear are now equipped with mounting bars for snow grousers.
A special feature of the tank can be found on top of the main gun mantlet, left of the gunner’s auxiliary sight housing. The Leopard 2A5DK mounted a search light. While using tanks on the Balkan, it was seem as very useful to make the enemy understand that they are tracked in the sight of a main battle tank. Usage of the search light is done from the commander’s station.
The Leopard 2A5DK is also equipped with the new smoke grenade launcher system, which was fielded later in Germany with the Leopard 2A6M.
The Leopard 2A5DK does not have an AA-MG and is also lacking the mount for it.
First Appearance: 2017
Country: Denmark / Germany
TThe brand new upgrade to a7 level
First Appearance: 1995
Country: Spain / Germany
To prepare the serial production and the service use of the Leopard 2 in Spain, a contract was signed with Germany for the leasing of 108 used Leopard 2A4. The tanks were delivered between 1995 and 1996, but didn’t receive any modification. It was planed to use the tanks for five years to train the Spanish tank troops. As the production of the Leopard 2E was delayed, the leasing contract got extended and Spain finally procured the tanks in 2005. It is not planed to upgrade the tanks to the Leopard 2E level. As of now, the tanks will stay in active service as Leopard 2A4E at least until 2025.
Country: Spain / Germany
Spain was working on the modernization of its armored force for quite a while. Finally, it was decided to procure a total of 300 tanks. Contract negotiations with Germany were finalized in 1998, containing the license production of 219 Leopard 2 in Spain. A higher production rate was not possible, instead the leased Leopard 2A4 were bought. It was agreed that 60% of the parts would be produced in Spain, as well as final assembly. The other 40% were produced in other countries, mainly Germany. To speed up the delivery, the first 30 tanks were produced in Germany and delivered between 2003 and 2006. Serial production in Spain started in 2003 and was finished in 2008 after the delivery of the 219th Leopard 2E.
Official reason for the delayed start of the serial production is the procurement of Santa Bárbara Sistemas by General Dynamics Land Systems. This is interesting, as GDLS is also responsible for the manufacturing of the M1 Abrams. Since the procurement of SBS, GDLS is also actively trying to sell the Leopard 2E. But no luck so far.
In general, the Leopard 2E is based on the Leopard 2A6, but with some modifications. Frontal armour of hull and turret protection have been improved by additional modules, comparable to the ones used by the Strv 122. This also includes the turret top with the sliding hatches. The additional mine protection of the Leopard 2A6 is not being used.
The fire control system was updated with modern thermal sights for commander and gunner. The tank is also equipped with the LINCE system (Leopard Information Control Equipment), which allows digital data exchange and mission planning. The commander has a color display to view a map and enter tactical data.
To enable longer mission times (especially when thinking about the climate conditions in Spain), the Leopard 2E is equipped with an electrically operated air condition system in the turret rear. It is used to cool the crew and the vehicles electronics. Together with the AC, the obligatory APU was installed in the hull rear. It is used to supply the tank’s systems with electric energy. This allows a reduction of fuel consumption and noise emission, when the tank is in a stationary position.
First Appearance: 2002
Country: Poland / Germany
Atotal of 124 used Leopard 2A4, as well as simulation and recovery equipment, were delivered from Germany to Poland in 2002. The vehicles were taken from the last two production lots and have been stored in depots since several years. The tanks were only shortly checked and the German signs were removed from the outside. Rest of the configuration wasn’t changed.
Some of the vehicles were taken from the tank battalion 284na in Heidenheim, my old battalion.
A second agreement signed in 2013 adds another 14 Leopard 2A4 to the inventory of the Polish Army. With a total of 138 Leopard 2A4 and the new A5, Poland operates now more Leopard 2 than Germany.
First Appearance: 2014
Country: Poland / Germany
Based on a contract signed between Germany and Poland, a total of 105 used Leopard 2A5 have been delivered to Poland in the years 2014 and 2015. The vehicles are from German Army stocks. Only modification done is the usage of the new smoke grenade launchers, which are currently in use with the german army.
First Appearance: 2017
Country: Poland / Germany
Poland is currently planning to upgrade all it's existing Leopard 2A4 to a new level, designated Leopard 2PL. The exact configuration of the tank has not been communicated. But it is likely that the tank will feature many components of the German Leopard 2A7. This includes the additional armour, the electric turret drive, thermal sight for the commander, IFIS, APU, air condition and HE ammunition. All 138 leopard 2A4 are supposed to be upgraded in the next years.
First Appearance: 2003
Country: Finland / Germany
Finland was equipped with 124 Leopard 2A4, as well as spare parts and documentation. Delivery of the tanks took place between 2003 and 2004. Originally, the tanks were not modified, but repainted. Later, modified storage boxes were mounted at the turret rear. The light side skirts received larger steps, allowing easier access to the tank, especially when wearing heavy winter boots.
First Appearance: 2015
Country: Finland / Netherlands / Germany
In early 2014, Finland approved a new deal to procure additional Leopard 2. The contract covers the procurement of 100 used Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands, including supporting systems and spare parts. Delivery of the vehicles has started in 2015 and is planned to be finished in 2020. It can be expected that the tanks will receive the same modifications as the A4.
First Appearance: 2001
Country: Norway / Netherlands / Germany
Norway and the Netherlands signed a contract for the delivery of 52 used Leopard 2A4 in 2001. Delivery started in the same year and was finished in 2002. The tanks were slightly modified, all the Dutch equipment was replaced by Leopard 2 standard ones. This includes the smoke grenade launchers, the radio sets and the machine guns.
The Leopard 2A4NO is replacing the older Leopard 1A5NO.
First Appearance: 2008
Country: Portugal / Netherlands / Germany
In 2007, Portugal decided for the procurement of 38 Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands. The tanks were modified to the same level as the German A6 and delivered in 2008 and 2009.
First Appearance: 2007
Country: Singapore / Germany
Singapore bought 96 used Leopard 2A4 from Germany in 2007. 66 tanks were completely refurbished and used for active service. The other 30 are delivered from depots and used for spare parts delivery. Changes were done to the radio sets. In addition, the M242 is used as secondary armament, including a fixed mount on the turret roof. The vehicles were also painted in a one color schema. It was announced in 2009, that Singapore is planning to improve the tanks significantly. Originally it was planned that the Leopard 2 should receive additional armour, a Battlefield Management System, an APU, a digital fire control system and an improved suspension. Procurement of new ammunition is also being evaluated. Due to cost cuts, most of the features were dropped and only the armour package developped by IBD as Leopard 2A4 Evolution was procured. Singapore is the first country receiving the upgrade. Delivery of the armour packages was done in 2010. The upgrade covers the additonal of passive armour only, there is no APS added to the tank.
First Appearance: 2007
Country: Chile / Germany
Chile is the first country in South America, who is using the Leopard 2. A total of 115 tanks were procured for service usage plus another 25 for spare parts and training. Delivery of the tanks took place in 2007 and 2008. The tanks are without modification, only the engine had to be adjusted. As Chile is using the tanks in very high altitudes, the turbo chargers had to be modified. They received a new impeller, which is specially designed for high altitude operations. And the engine also received additional temperature sensors to prevent engine overheating.
Country: Canada / Germany
Besides 20 Leopard 2A6 and 2 ARV Büffel, Canada also purchased 80 used Leopard 2NL from the Netherlands, 14 A4 from Germany and 12 Pz 87 from Switzerland. The original plan was to run a graduate upgrade program and slowly bring most of the tanks to a configuration level close to the A6M. This was supposed to start with the electric turret drive, followed by armour upgrades and finally the L/55 main gun. Financial considerations finally put an end to these plans. Instead, usage and modification of the Leopard 2 fleet was aligned to the actual need of the troops. The majority of the tanks is being used for training only, which renders most of the upgrades useless.
At the end, only 31 tanks were upgraded to so called A4+ level. Modifications compared to the original NL configuration are mainly done in order to adjust the tanks to the standard equipment of the Canadian Army. This covers radios, smoke grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms. In addition, the tanks are prepared to mount mine plough and dozer blade.
Out of the other Leopard 2 acquired by Canada, 20 have been upgraded to Leopard 2A4M CAN, 12 ARV Büffel and 18 AEV Wisent 2. All other tanks, a total of 26, will be used for spare parts and potential future upgrades.
First Appearance: 2007
Country: Canada / Germany
Canada decided for the procurement of Leopard 2 in 2007. Main reason was the increased work load during the missions in Afghanistan, which could not be delivered using the older Leopard 1. These vehicles are used since many years and have passed the end of the planed service life since many years already. Instead of going down the same road as many other nations and use light vehicles, Canada decided to stick with German main battle tanks. Reasons were the experiences gathered when using the Leopard 1. But also the fast availability of the Leopard 2, as well as its technological advantage compared to other competitors were taken into account.
To speed up procurement, the process was split into two phases. Phase 1 was the procurement of tanks from Germany and the Netherlands, phase 2 the improvement of the tanks. First step was the leasing of 20 Leopard 2A6M from Germany. The vehicles were slightly modified and directly delivered to Afghanistan, where they are still used.
The new tanks, designated Leopard 2A6M CA, are nearly identical to the German A6M. Most visible difference is the usage of slat armour, intended to detonate incoming rounds before they hit the basic armour of the tank. Slat armour has been used extensively around sides and rear of hull and turret. The modules are only screwed on and can be removed for repairs or maintenance. Tank crews are also using the slat armour around the turret as a large storage basked. All it took was the fitting of some metal mesh as bottom.
Besides the slat armour, also the basic armour was upgraded. Additional armour plates have been installed on the hull front top around the driver's hatch. Another small modification on the hull front are protection frames around the two indicator lights.
Another significant modification has been done to the radio systems. The normal antenna bases of the Leopard 2 were replaced by massive t-styles ones, each of them housing three antennas. The left base only holds two massive radio antennas, while the right one has one radio antenna and one small one for the ECM system. It is used to surpress mobile communication around the vehicle, thus also blocking remote controls on IEDs. The electronic components of the ECM system are mounted on top of the turret, in flat boxes behind the commander's hatch. Last but not least, each antenna mount also carries a flat round GPS antenna for the navigation system.
Another modification is a storage box in front of the commanders hatch. It holds to C8 carbines for the crew. The storage and usage of this large weapon would have been quite difficult inside the turret.
The Leopard 2A6M CAN does not come with any air conditioning system for crew or electronics. To deliver at least some sort of relief, the crew is equipped with cooling vests, operated with air from outside the vehicle. To help the electronics, a cooling vent was added on the turret top.
For the usage in Afghanistan, the tanks are eqiped with a Barracuda camouflage system, which is reducing the heat and radar signature and delivering optical camouflage. As known from the Leopard 1AS, the Leopard 2A6M CAN is also equipped with an umbrella for sun protection. It is usually mounted on a pole between the two turret hatches, but can be folded away for transport.
To ensure long term usage in Afghanistan, the tanks are equipped with a more powerful air filtration for the engine. It is capable of coping with higher amount of sand and dust.
There has also been a slight change to the fire control system of the Leopard 2. Besides APFSDS and HEAT-MP rounds, the Canadian tank is also configured to fire the M1028 canister round.
Several Leopard 2A6M CAN have also been modified to use the MCRS (Mine Clearance Roller System). It consists of an adapter plate, mounted to the tanks hull and the actual steel rollers. Mine clearing is done by pressure and vibration. To mount the MCRS, mounting points and electric connectors had to be added to the hull front and the headlights had to be removed.
First Appearance: 2010
Country: Canada / Germany
The Leopard 2A4M is a special version developped for the Canadian Armed Forces. It is based on Dutch Leopard 2A4 and a total of 20 vehicles have been setup.
The tank is basically similar to the Leopard 2A6M, but without the new sight for the commander and the navigation equipment. The Leopard 2A4M still has the original Peri-R17, but comes with the new turret front armour. The tank also features the redesigned hull with additional armour on top and below, as well as on the sides. The driver is equipped with a thermal imaging sight mounted on the hull front, enabling driving under bad weather conditions.
The Leopard 2A4M comes with the electric turret drive, introduced with the A5. The tank does not feature any updated turret electronics, except the canadian radio systems.
Because of the additional armour, more than 61t vehicle mass, make the Leopard 2A4M the most heavy A4 based version of the Leopard 2 ever.
First Appearance: 2005
Country: Turkey / Germany
Instead of the originally planed procurement of 1.000 Leopard 2A5, Turkey decided in 2005 to procure only 298 Leopard 2A4 from German depots. The tanks only received better air filters. Delivery of all tanks took place, but an option to get another 41 tanks was never used.
First Appearance: 2011
Country: Turkey / Germany
The Leopard 2NG (Next Generation) is an upgrade package developed by the Turkish company Aselsan. It is another project based on the Leopard 2A4 Evolution, sharing all the same additional armour. Similar to the MBT Revolution, the Leopard 2NG is also replacing some of the turret electronics. It starts with the electric turret and gun drive. Gunner and commander receive new sights including control panels. The gunner can now change the magnification of the day and thermal sight to 3x or 12x. The commander is using the same sight as the gunner, but placed in a revolving housing on the turret rear top. Control panels for commander and gunner are similar and hold a monocular eyepiece, as well as buttons and displays. Both also receive new handles. The tanks fire control system is improved by adding cross wind and temperature sensors.
The Leopard 2NG comes with a GPS based navigation and battlefield management system. It allows encrypted data communication with other units.
Turret front and rear are equipped with laser detectors. In case of incoming signals, the system will warn the crew automatically. It can also turn the turret in the direction of the incoming laser pulse and trigger the smoke grenade launchers. They are the original ones used by the Leopard 2.
A last feature to be mentioned is the remote weapon station on the turret rear. It can either be controlled by the commander using it's sight or the loader using a special remote control. In this case, the loader would also use the optic mounted on the weapon station.
The Leopard 2NG has been finished in 2011. As Turkey did not continue with the procurement of Leopard 2, but rather invests in the new Altay MBT, it is unlikely that many packages are sold. The Leopard 2NG is adding new technology to the old tanks. But it does not have the capabilities of the Leopard 2 Revolution. One also needs to question the experience Aselsan has with upgrading the German tank. As of now, no other export customer could be found for the package.
First Appearance: 2015
Country: Qatar / Germany
In 2009, the German government approved the delivery of 36 used Leopard 2A4 to Qatar. Already by then, the Leopard 2A4 was not the latest version of the tank anymore and eventually the project did not happen. Instead, the contract was changed to 62 Leopard 2A7+. The tank is the latest version of the Leopard 2 family and Qatar will be the first user. Delivery of the tanks will start in 2015. All vehicles are new build and not combat improved vehicles in use with other armies.
First Appearance: 2013
Country: Indonesia / Germany
Indonesia tried to buy 100 Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands. The deal was cancelled, due to mass protests in the Netherlands. Instead, Indonesia turned towards Germany. In 2013, Indonesia has been officially added to the group of Leopard 2 users. A total of 105 tanks have been ordered, which will be delivered between 2014 and 2020. The tanks will be delivered as Leopard 2A4+ and Leopard 2RI.y´
A first step was the delivery of two tanks, which took part in a military parade in October 2013. The tanks were older Pz 87 from the Swiss Army. The tanks were not upgraded, but repainted. The snow grousers are not present anymore, but the mounts are. The tanks still have the machine gun barrel mounts on the right turret side, but the engine mufflers are gone. The tanks also come with a new radio set, which can be identified by the new large antenna mounts.
First Appearance: 2014
Country: Indonesia / Germany
Out of the 103 Leopard 2 ordered by Indonesia, a first lot of 42 tanks will be delivered in the so called Leopard 2A4+ version. The tanks will be refurbished Leopard 2A4, but with some additional modifications. Most important change is the usge of the electric turret drive, replacing the older hydraulic one. This reduces the danger for the crew significantly, as well as the energy consumption. It also frees up some space in the turret rear, which is directly filled up by an air conditioning system for the crew. A new APU has not been reported to be part of the tanks configuration.
The main gun received new recoil brakes, enabling the usage of the latest 120mm APFSDS rounds. The fire control system was also enhanced in order to fire the new pre-programmable HE rounds. The additional control panel has been added to the loader's station.
Additional armour was not added, this feature is a privilege of the Leopard 2RI only.
First Appearance: 2016
Country: Indonesia / Germany
The Leopard 2RI is essentially a Leopard 2A4+ RI with additional armour modules. The 61 tanks procured are similar to the A4+ RI in setup, but cover the armour modules displayed with the MBT Evolution at Eurosatory 2014. These offer additional modules at hull and turret front and sides, as well as slat armour around the rear. The tank is also equipped with additional mine protection.
To ensure the training of Leopard 2 drivers, a special version of the tank was developed. It is based on the experience with a similar version of the Leopard 1 and used in training centers only.
The hull is basically identical to the normal tank, but contains certain new interfaces to the turret. The turret itself has nothing in common with a Leopard 2 one. It reminds on a truck’s cabin and has seats for drive trainer and two soldiers. All controls are available and the trainer can override the driver if needed.
A main gun is not available, but a small metal pipe is mounted instead. Additional weights on the turret sides simulate the missing turret weight and ensure that the tank has normal mobility.
First Appearance: 1990
Country: Netherlands / Germany
The Leopard 2NL driving school tank is used by the Dutch Army to train Leopard 2 drivers. The vehicle is similar to the German version, but it lacks the main gun mock up. The tank is also used by the Austrian Army.
First Appearance: 2003
Country: Spain / Germany
The driving school tank used in the Spanish Army is called Leopard 2E Escuela. The hull is equal to the Leopard 2E. The weapons turret is replaced by a small cabin, comparable to the Dutch driving school tank.
First Appearance: 2016
Country: Qatar / Germany
The QAT LDTT
Country: Germany / Netherlands
The recovery tank was developed from Germany in cooperation with the Netherlands at the end of the 1980s. Today it marks the standard recovering vehicle of the German tank battalions and parts of the artillery troop. A total of 75 Büffel were produced for the Bundeswehr, 25 for the Royal Netherlands Army and lately 25 for Switzerland. In 2002, Greece was ordering 12 vehicles, which have been delivered already. Another 16 went to Spain. Last but not least, Austria was renting 2 Büffel from the Netherlands, which were returned in 2007.
To decrease costs and ease the spare part supply, the vehicle is sharing various components with the Leopard 2. These are for instance suspension, propulsion and parts of the hull.
The Bergepanzer is not equipped with a traversable turret, but a large superstructure has been mounted on top of the hull front and the left side. It contains the stations of the crew and parts of the onboard equipment. Other tools are transported at the hull top and rear.
Access to the hull is done thru three doors at the left side. The driver's station is in the hull front, slightly moved to the left. His hatch contains several large periscopes and can be opened to the left. When opened, the driver gets a larger field of view to operate even in complicated situations. Directly behind the driver is the station of the TC. His raised cupola can be opened to the rear.
The vehicle is not equipped with stabilized sights and operating done only by using optical periscopes. For operations by night they can be replaced by passive sights. On top of the right hull front, a crane with a maximum lifting capacity of 30t is mounted. It can be traversed 270°. While operations a monitoring system observes the crane and limits its movement in case of overstressing.
A main winch with a pull capacity of 350kN is mounted centred in the hull front. By using defection rollers, the pulling force can be doubled. The used cable has a diameter of 33mm and a total length of 180m. A special feature of that winch is that the usable power is not depending on the used cable length and so all the time the maximum power is available. For emergency situations a secondary winch with a pull capacity of 6.5kN is mounted in the hull front right.
A large dozer blade is mounted on the hull front. It is used for dozing operations or to stabilize the tank while using the crane. It is also the mounting point for the rapid recovering tool, which is used to recover broken tanks under armour.
When using the self recovering equipment the tank is able to recover itself if it got stuck.
The hull top is designed to carry a full operational Leopard 2 powerpack including engine, filters, coolers and transmission. A replacement under combat conditions will only take up to 30 minutes.
For smoke laying the tank has two launching systems. At the hull front are four launchers mounted at each site. One system with eight launchers is also mounted at the hull rear. The Büffel is equipped with an NBC protection system and a fire depression system.
Main armament is a 7.62mm AA-MG mounted at the commander's hatch. Because of its lower mass compared to the Leopards 2, the Bergepanzer 3 has a higher mobility. The range of the vehicle was increased by adding an additional 400l fuel cell. The tank is able to cross even deep waters.
The ISAF version of the Büffel has been adjusted to a theater with multiple anti tank threats. Therefore the tank has been updated with additional protection packages. These cover the usage of new side skirts, heavy armour blocks on the frontal sides, the addition of slat armour all around the vehicle and the mounting of additional anti mine protection as seen on the Leopard 2A6M.
The modified vehicles have been used as part of the German Army engagement in Afghanistan. After the return, the slat armour and the massive side skirts will be removed.
First Appearance: 2002
Country: Sweden / Germany
The Bgv 120 is a new version of the German Büffel ARV, which was adapted to the needs of the Swedish Army.
A major change is the increased crew's protection. An additional layer of armour material has been mounted at the crew's compartment. The AA-MG at the commander's hatch can be remotely controlled. The normal SGD used at the Büffel are replaced by the GALIX self-defence system.
Another major element of the Bgbv 120 is a new recovery equipment mounted at the hull rear. It is equipped with a camera and can be remotely controlled from the fighting compartment.
First Appearance: 2003
Country: Switzerland / Germany
Rheinmetall Landsystems and RUAG have developed the Kodiak as modern combat engineer vehicle based on the Leopard 2. The vehicle is using a modified Leopard 2 hull and a large superstructure, comparable to the one of the Büffel ARV. Most important difference is that the Kodiak’s superstructure is split into two parts. This is necessary, as the tank is transporting it’s most important feature on top of the hull front. It’s a large excavator arm, which can be forded for transportation on top of the hull. It is used to build emplacements, clear obstacles or similar engineering tasks. The Kodiak is equipped with a mounting unit for different types of blades on the hull front. Available range of tools goes from different dozer blades to mine clearing equipment. Other special tools the Kodiak is providing are winches on front and rear of the hull.
The tanks crew consists of two soldiers, placed in the super structure, but smaller platoons of engineers can be transported as well. The commander is placed in the right side, the driver left. Both have a hatch to enter/exit the stations. The commander’s hatch is also equipped with an AA-MG. Both crew members use simple periscopes for observation. The driver can also use a rear view camera on the hull rear.
Two large storage boxes are transported on the hull rear, used to transport engineer equipment and tools.
As of now there are three customers for the Kodiak. Sweden is going to receive 6, the Netherlands 10 and Switzerland 12 vehicles. All countries use existing vehicles for the modification and not new build Kodiaks.
First Appearance: 2012
Country: Germany / Canada
Wisent 2 is a modern support vehicle, based on the Leopard 2. It has been developed by FFG and is in use with the Canadian Army. The unique feature of the Wisent 2 is that it can be used as an Armoured Engineer Vehicle or an Armoured Recovery vehicle.
Wisent 2 is using a heavily modified hull of the Leopard 2. It looks quite similar to the Büffel but is quite different. The turret has been removed and a large superstructure has been added to the front. The structure is longer than the one of the Büffel and houses the crew of three. It can also carry additional soldiers if needed. The crew of the Wisent 2 consists of the driver, the commander and an engineer/mechanic. The vehicle is only light armed, a remotely controlled machine gun can be added. The armour offers protection against artillery and machine canons only. But it can be improved by adding ballistic nets, slat or ERA.
One of the important features of the vehicle is it's modular electronic and hydraulic system, which is designed in a way that it can be equipped with multiple special and commercial tools and extensions.
Main role if the Wisent 2 is the ARV role. A large crane can be mounted on the hull front right, just beside the crew compartment. It is designed for a maximum lifting of 32t and enables the crew to lift heavy objects or even parts of tanks. As with the Büffel, the crane can be traversed 270deg. The tank can transport a complete Leopard 2 power pack including transmission and coolers or even a turret on the back of the hull.
Instead of the crane, the Wisent 2 can also be equipped with an excavator arm. Refitting one of the two is don e within 5h, which is quite reasonable for a conversion of the vehicle. The excavator turns the vehicle into a proper engineer vehicle, able of executing a large variety of engineering tasks like digging positions or clearing obstacles. The excavator bucket can hold a total of 1.3m3 and the digging depth is 4.4m.
Besides either the crane ot the excavator arm, the Wisent 2 offers other tools. The most visible one is a large dozer blade, mounted at the hull front. It is used as a stand while working or to clean obstacles. The blade is available in two different versions, a small and a wide one. While the smaller one adds less weight to the vehicle, the larger one is more effective levelling positions. As a replacement, the Wisent 2 can also be equipped with a large full width mine plough or rollers, as well as markers for the cleared passage. Electric and hydraulic connectors at the hull front allow the usage of other equipment as well, if needed.
The Wisent also comes with two winches at the front. The main one is capable of pulling a total of 46t, while the smaller one can handle up to 3.6t. Cable length is 160m and 280m respectively. As a special feature, the tank is equipped with the Combat Recovery System. It basically consists of two tow bars, mounted at the hull rear. The bars are linked together and can be lowered from within the tank. The operator is using cameras to control the CRS and attach it to the tank that need to be towed. This allows the crew to recover a vehicle under fire without leaving the protection of the tank.
The Wisent is the most powerful engineer vehicle available on the market. It's usage as ARV and AEV relates in massive savings when equipping the troops. Only issue is in the structure of the armies, as we usually don't have recovery and engineering tasks combined in one unit. But this might change and we will potentially see the Wisent entering service with more countries, not only Cananda.
First Appearance: 20016
Country: Qatar / Germany
The Wisent 2 used in QAT.
Country: Finland / Germany
The Leopard 2R (Raivauspanssarivaunu: Mine Clearing Tank) is a special mine clearing vehicle based on the Leopard 2, which was developed for Finland. The basic concept is comparable to the American ABV, based on the M1 Abrams, but without the Mk 155 LCDCS.
The hull of the Leopard 2R was taken from the Leopard 2A4 nearly without any modification. The hull front carries a hydraulically operated blade mount, which allows the usage of different dozer blades or other clearing equipment. This includes the FWPM (Full Width Mine Plow), developed by Pearson Engineering, the most powerful mine clearing device available. The FWMP is a large plow, consisting of three blades, which use forks to dig mines out of the ground. After that, the blade is pushing the mines aside. The blade is not braking the surface, which reduces the weight of the whole unit and also the amount of soil that needs to be moved. The upper part of the blade is covered by a metal grid, which catches splitters and stones and other objects that might hit the tank. Three large arms are mounted in front of the FWPM, used to control the clearing depth. It can be set between 175 and 300mm, max clearing width is 4.20m. The resulting lane is wider than the tank, which makes it also easier for following vehicles to pass. In case there is not enough space for such a wide lane, it is also possible to remove the center part of the FWPM and decrease the clearing width accordingly. Because of its size, the FWPM is not transported by the Leopard 2R, but loaded on a supporting truck. If needed, the Leopard 2R can also be equipped with smaller dozer blades.To illuminate the area in front of the tank, especially during mine clearing operations, the tanks front lights have been modified. A metal arm is placed on the hull front, carrying two headlights on its upper end. They are mounted in a way that the beam is going slightly downwards on top of the clearing equipment and the area in front of it. The normal front lights were also moved higher, so that they are not blocked by the FWPM. A rear view camera is mounted on the hull rear, but it’s a much larger one that other Leopard 2 tanks carry. This is necessary, as the driver of the Leopard 2R, operating in mine infested areas, needs an image with much higher resolution and details.
The normal turret of the Leopard 2A4 has been replaced by a special super structure, which looks somewhat similar like the turret of the CV90, but it’s much wider. It contains the stations for the operator (right) and the commander (left). The stations can be accessed thru individual hatches in the roof. Both hatches are equipped with several periscopes, enabling a larger field of view. A large, semi transparent periscope is mounted in front of the commander’s hatch, similar to the one used with the Leopard 2A5. The design of the actual hatches is also very interesting, as it somewhat reminds on the T-72. The commander’s hatch also hols a mount for an AA-MG. It is not intended for the MG3, used by the Finish Army with the Leopard 2. Instead a 12.7mm NSVT/Kord can be mounted. This makes the Leopard 2R the only Leopard 2 version using such a weapon.
A marker device is mounted on the rear of the Leopard 2R turret. It is used to mark the lane cleared thru the mine field. The system contains of a control unit and two transportation containers. The control unit allows to move the containers into transport/marking position and to fire the actual markers. The containers are transported flat on the hull rear and only erected for actual usage. Each container contains 50 markers, which are fired individually down into the ground. Each marker has a length of 1m and is covered by bright and reflecting materials.
The hull rear also carries large storage boxes. They contain additional clearing equipment, tools and personal gear of the crew.
A total of 10 vehicles were produced and fielded. All tanks are built using existing Leopard 2A4.
Country: Finland / Germany
The Leopard 2L (Leguan) is a bridge layer tank based on the Leopard 2, which was developed in Finland. Instead of using the modern PSB2 design, the proven Leguan system was chosen. Development of the Leopard 2L was done together with KMWeg based on the Leopard 2A4. A total of 10 vehicles were produced using available tanks.
The turrets of the A4s were removed and only the heavily modified hulls were used. The use of the Leopard 2 hull and its powerpack ensure excellent mobility of the vehicle. The hull front carries a small dozer blade including hydraulically operated mounting device. The blade is used for obstacle clearing and emplacement paving, but also to stabilize the tank during bridge laying operations. The bridge laying device is mounted on top of the tank’s hull. It consists of laying arm, electro-hydraulic drive and control unit. It also offers storage boxes for tools and personal equipment. The bridge itself is of the two parts sliding type, with the rear part getting transported on top of the front one. During operation, the rear part is moved to the rear part of the tank, lowered and combined with the front part. Then the bridge is laid as one part over the vehicle front.
The crew of the Leopard 2L consists of driver and commander, which are both placed in the hull front. The driver has his known station in the right hull side, while the commander is in the left hull front.
The bridge can be laid from inside the tank, without that any crew member has to dismount. Several cameras are mounted around the vehicle, allowing the crew good visibility on the surrounding area, as well as the bridge.
The Leopard 2L is based on the German concept implementation of the Leguan system, but differs in certain details. The tank is using the latest MLC 80 bridge with a length of 26m. Still, it has to be noted that the Leguan is neither a modern, nor a powerful bridge system. Because of the bridge design, it is not possible to cross obstacles. It is only usable to cross trenches/waters with somewhat levelled sides.
KMW is offering the Leopard 2 with the modernized Leguan bridge laying device. The sliding bridge has a width of 28m and can transport vehicles up to MLC 70. One reference vehicle based on the Leopard 2 was produced and tested, but not fielded. It was also used as model for the Finnish Leopard 2L.
First Appearance: 2013
At Eurosatory 2014, KMWeg presented a new version of the Leguan bridge layer. The tank features an upgraded launching vehicle, as well as a new bridge design.
The vehicle is based on the Leopard 2 hull. The crew consists of the driver and the commander/operator, both located in the hull front. The driver's position is in the hull front right and is basically similar to the normal Leopard 2. The commander's station is left of the driver, replacing the hull front ammunition rack. The commander is equipped with a separate hatch.
The tank is equipped with a small dozer blade at the hull front. It can be used to set the base for a bridge, clear out obstacles and stabilized the vehicle during the bridge laying process.
The extra equipment of the tank also covers storage boxes and baskets around the turret the hull rear. On demand an auxiliary power unit can be added, similar to the Leopard 2A7.
Instead of one bridge, this version of the Leguan is capable of paying two individual ones. Each bridge has a length of 14m and both are transported on top of each other on the hull. In order to lay the bridges separately, the tank is equipped with two laying devices. The main one is placed on top of the hull, replacing the main turret and the secondary one is mounted at the hull rear. The main one is used to lay and retract the bridge, the secondary one to hold and handle a bridge.
Laying a bridge can be done fully under armour. A small sight is mounted on the main laying device, helping the commander to observe the area and direct the bridge. The sight contains day and night sight, as well as laser range finder. The sight can also be used by the driver during night time. An additional camera is placed on the hull rear.
In order to overcome an obstacle, the second bridge is lifted upwards. Then the first bridge is raised and slided forward. When it is laid, the second bridge can be slided forward as well and handed over to the main laying device.
The new Leguan version is a very powerful device. The possibility to mount two bridges is a significant improvement. The tank is very heavily armoured and offers good protection to the crew. Fighting capabilities are low, there is just the possibility to mount a remotely operated machine gun.
First Appearance: 1999
With the fielding of the Leopard 2A5 and A6, Germany does not have a bridge laying tank, able to support the heavy tanks. The used bridgelayer Bieber supports tanks up to ML 60, which means Leopard 2A4. The re-equipment of the vehicles with a more powerful bridge was an option, but would also have meant service life extension for the Leopard 1 based hulls. Finally, the development of a new bridge layer tank was started together with the Netherlands.
The Panzerschnellbrücke 2 (rapid tank bridge) comes in a very special design. The bridge itself consists of three parts, which are transported on top of each other. Each part has a length of 9.70m and can either be layed individually or combined with the other two. This enables the tank to lay a bridge with a length between 9.70m and 27.70m. All necessary components for transporting and laying the bridge are combined in the laying device. The necessary hydraulic drive is placed in the vehicles hull.
The crew of the PSB2 consists of commander and driver, placed in the hull front. Bridge laying is done from inside the tank without the need of a crew member to dismount.
The Panzerschnellbrücke 2 is supposed to replace the older Bieber. But due to cost issues, no order has been placed yet.
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990
First Appearance: 1990